Developing Capable People – Fatal Flaw #3 – Carbon Copies

Our tag line reads “Reach Further, Accomplish More, Work Less.” That is, after all, the objective of developing capable people – to expand your influence, get more done, and do less of the grunt work yourself. It would seem to logically follow that the best way to do this would be to raise up a cadre of others who are clones of yourself. After all, the logic would propose, if I can get this much done, lots more people like me can get lots more done.

But that is not the best use of your time and certainly not the best use of your efforts nor in the end will it work very well. The reason you need to extend your reach is because there are people and opportunities that you cannot reach. And you cannot reach them because of who you are and how you do things.

Now, before you start to object, let me explain. We all have a set of unique gifts and an individual personality. Time and its experiences have honed the gifts and shaped the personality. We are therefore capable of doing some things very well and not doing others very well at all. We are amiable to some people and not so much to others. We attract some and repel others. Therefore, we need other people to complement us, to get where we cannot.

We are limited not only by time and energy. We are limited by gifts and personality even though our personal gifts may be many. Others can do for us what, in essence, we really cannot do for ourselves. That same principle, when we understand it and do something about it, will enable us to expand our effectiveness because we present a more complete set of gifts and capabilities.

But many leaders are uncomfortable working for very long or very loosely with people who are different than themselves. We like to associate with others who are similar. We gravitate toward people who have the same type of interests, the same preferences, and the same temperament. This proves my point.

To try to multiply yourself through others who are just like you will only multiply the inefficiencies and the inadequacies. It will not compensate for them. But there is another point.

All leaders are terminal. No one will outlive themselves. Your tenure in your position (indeed, in life, too) is finite. You have a unique capability at this point in time that can serve your company or organization well.

But change is needed.

As gifted and capable as you are, there will come a time when someone with a different take on things will be needed to move the company or organization to the next level. Admittedly, leaders (especially politicians) have a hard time with this. Once we arrive at a place of power we tend to stay there, even when our effectiveness begins to wane. Those leaders who are most effective at developing capable people never limit themselves to candidates who are essentially clones of themselves…and they never try to make their followers into replicas. Why?

Because carbon copies are always weaker and carbon copies of carbon copies are weaker yet. If you’re in a location where copies are made by machines instead of carbon paper, the same principle applies. Even a photocopy is not quite as good as the original. And unfortunately, you can tell it is not an original.

Thankfully, in leadership this should not be the intent because we are developing people who can go and do what we cannot (and need not). We are dividing our work because we are handing off responsibilities to others whose gifts and talents can better handle them, thus freeing us to do those things we can uniquely do.

1 thought on “Developing Capable People – Fatal Flaw #3 – Carbon Copies”

  1. I have never heard this stated so powerfully and clearly. The example of carbon copy is awesome.
    THANK YOU for never disappointing—in providing such practical principles of leadership.


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