“Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.” – Dale Carnegie

Are you exhausted from leading out front with your community, followers or in your business? Do you spend a heap of energy rallying the troops time after time, trying to generate engagement and yet you’re left wondering for how long you can keep it up?

Do you wish you could take a break every now and then? Are you wondering why the hell you got yourself mixed up in this impact-making business only to find yourself working longer hours and harder than you ever did in your life-sucking job or previous life?

If this sounds like you, then you’ve likely fallen prey to the over-responsible leader trap.

What the heck is that?!

Well it’s when you, the leader, become over-responsible for the community members which in turn feeds their under-responsibility. Let us explain more….

Imagine you have grown up kids (or maybe you do already!) and even though they are in their teens and completely capable, you do everything for them: organise breakfast, lunch and dinner, give them money, do the shopping, tidy up after them, solve all their problems, pick up them and their friends at a moment’s notice, take them to sports and so on. You are being over-responsible.

And when you start to be over-responsible, this feeds the behavioral patterns even further with the children becoming less and less independent and more and more reliant on you to make sh*t happen. They basically learn to be helpless.

The result? You’re exhausted, infuriated, depleted and probably becoming more than a little resentful. And the children? Well they are dependent, lacking initiative, and seemingly incapable or unwilling to solve their own problems. The perfect recipe for frustration.

Community, followers, clients and teams work exactly the same way. You see, they can become very lazy and dependent on you, the leader, to drive the action. And the greater problem with that is: they get robbed of opportunities for growth and personal development in that kind of environment plus they are more likely to abandon you as they get tired of being told what to do.

Leaders who are over-responsible generally find themselves with shallow connections with their tribe because they are too busy making everything ‘just so’, instead of empowering their people and enabling them to take action.

Taking back your energy requires letting go of control

So given all of the above, why the heck would anyone want to be over-responsible in the first place!? Well one of the main reasons we do this as leaders, or up-and-coming leaders, is to exert a sense of control and power. You see, we haven’t yet spent the time to develop trust in our community nor within ourselves, to get to know them, to find the flag bearers, to ask and hear their feedback and ideas, and to allow them to take the lead once in a while.

We are in the full controlling zone. And while some control is obviously needed, especially in the beginning phase of seeding and growing a group or collective, we then need to be able to switch from this mode to being influential, not a full-time control freak.

Because a connected community is not one where there is one leader and many followers who are waiting for instruction from the leader: that is a typical ‘list’. Of course there’s nothing wrong with creating a list to market too, it’s just that it’s not our preferred style or mission.

A truly hyper-connected community can only be measured by the depth of connectedness between its members. In other words…

  • Do they talk to one another?
  • Do they collaborate spontaneously?
  • Do they help each other solve problems?
  • Have they formed mastermind groups?
  • Do they take initiative to welcome new members/clients/followers?
  • Do they share and support each other’s work?
  • Do some followers experience so much growth that they become your peer or even surpass your ‘level’?

So instead of building a structure resembling a pyramid, with you at the top, we advocate a flat roofed structure where there seems to be less ‘gap’ between you, the leader, and the followers. An approach, mindset or strategy that sees you lead from not just the front, but from the side (along with your community) and from the back (allowing them to take the lead and settling into a mentoring role).

So how do we do that? How do we let go of control, just enough to allow the community members to move out of the under-responsible end of the spectrum and into showing initiative? How do we start to create something that is far more sustainable, both in terms of your energy expended and how engaged, and therefore financially supportive your community or client-base is?

The fears of your community growing up

First, we need to address one of the biggest fears that many leaders have that prevents any of this approach working in the first place.

The fear that your followers outgrow you.

What if they outgrow my products and services? What if they leave? What if they surpass my own expertise?! This is not good!

Well we say ‘So what if they do!’ This simply means you’ve done your damn job! We would even go so far to say that the biggest compliment any leader, movement, project, business can receive is that they become redundant.

When you do your job, and grow up members in your community, often this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for (although most of us miss it) to step back and allow this person to become a leader in the community, to mentor others coming through and to take the pressure off you.

And this is exactly what happened for us when we fumbled our way through our first every immersion coaching program – World Changer’s Blueprint (more on how we did that shortly).

How to boost engagement and start cultivating leaders within

World Changer's blueprint

When we first started our business almost three years ago, we unwittingly stumbled upon this strategy of encouraging responsibility within our community (even at it’s tiny stage with a few hundred followers).

Some of the best strategies out there are the ones you don’t even know you’re running, and this was certainly the case for us.

One of the first things we did was host a meetup live in Sydney, Australia and from there we started to identify potential candidates for our first two free group coaching mastermind. Little did we know it, but this was our first foray into cultivating leaders within.

As we worked intensively with these small groups we facilitated their growth, both personally and professionally, and built trust between not just us and them, but between them. And then we simply kept on repeating that strategy with courses, coaching groups, meetups and live events.

Fast forward to 2015 and we launched our first immersion coaching experience for 14 people over a 10 month period with the World Changer’s Blueprint. At the beginning of the course we lead from the front, providing mentoring, coaching, and hands-on support to get them into momentum and off the ground. During that time we placed them with a buddy for support. But about halfway through we did something quite usual….

We asked the participants to work on each other’s projects (you should have seen their faces!). While they were initially reluctant, we had already spent 5 months building trust and rapport within the group so they took it on.

What happened over that 6 month period was nothing short of extraordinary. Their projects accelerated because suddenly it was no longer just ourselves and the participants working on their impact project, it was the whole group for one whole week, until their turn rolled around again.

So given that story, we want to share with you some tips and tricks that you could use in your own business, project, passionate work, community or team to boost engagement and cultivate leaders within. Depending on where you are at in your journey, take a look and see where you could start from, no matter how small it might seem. Ready to experiment?!

1. Step back and consider potential candidates

Who is currently in the fold that has caught your attention? Who has reached out to you to thank you? Who would you/or do you adore working with that you could reach out to and ask for feedback? Make a shortlist and send them an email to thank them for being a leader and ask them if they’d be up for answering some questions.

2. Quit making assumptions and ASK them what they need

Many leaders fall into the trap of thinking they have to have it all worked out. You don’t! And in fact it’s better for business if you don’t (in some cases). Do you know what your followers really want? Have you been playing a guessing game, wondering why certain things engage your audience, while others fall completely flat? Use this is a perfect opportunity to engage with your followers, especially those you’ve identified in Step 1 above. Feedback is crucial to ensure you can adjust course as you go. Ask your community things like: What do you love about this space? What’s working well in your opinion? What’s not working as well as you would like? What do you think is missing that could make a difference to our community?

3. Get vulnerable & share your uncertainty

Some of the best engagement and sharing comes from opening up and being vulnerable about what you’re struggling with. Send an email to your community, expressing your challenge with leadership, or your concern about if you’re good enough, etc. – I promise you these kinds of stories and sharing will generate conversations that are otherwise kept under the radar.

4. Tag others or loop others in over email to answer questions

As above, you don’t have to have all the answers; in fact if you pretend you do, it actually stymies collaboration and connection between members. So, for example, if someone posts a question on Facebook, give the community a chance to reply before you jump in to save the day. Or go a step further and tag people who you think would be experts to share their experience/recommendations/solution. This can also be done over email and on live calls.

5. Get them talking to each other and connecting

What current platforms or formats do you have where your community can come together in a live format and talk? All too often as leaders we hide behind our email list, Facebook likes and other online groups. Host a live meetup, webinar or casual video conference hangout to get to know who is following you and be sure to use that time to be a facilitator of discussion amongst the group. Invite them to share by asking ‘Wow, that’s so powerful, I’d love to hear the groups thoughts on that.’

6. Encourage others to facilitate or take the lead

Taking that a step further, if you have a regular meetup group or an online interactive course, invite and encourage them to facilitate part of the call, be sure to give guidelines (i.e. hold the space, listen, offer thoughts, no coaching and keep us to time). This can be an incredible opportunity for personal growth of others. After leading meetup groups in Sydney and Brisbane, we were both thrilled to give away the leadership of those spaces to up-and-coming leaders and step back into a support role after a period of around 6-12 months of building the format, engaging participants, and providing consistency.

7. Encourage mastermind groups to form

Embrace the idea that things can, and should, happen without your involvement. Encourage mastermind or working groups to form and become the connector of amazing individuals. Placing people into groups, or supporting them to do so, is one of the fastest ways to accelerate their journey, hold them accountable, and take much of the pressure off you.

And before you dive head on into any of these, pace yourself, you will need to do some leading out front, a sprint, but then fall back with the pack for a gentle jog. True, deep engagement takes time and effort, but the more you focus on getting the followers talking to each other, the more you will start to sow the seeds of being able to slow down, release control, and focus on the stuff that your community truly needs you to focus on.

Because if we’re exhausted and burnt out from doing work that we love, then what’s the point?! Your community needs you to focus on getting done the stuff that truly matters and that will take the vision of what you are creating together to new heights. And what better reward is there than that?

Here’s to empowering others and allowing our full potentials to be fully expressed.

For the comments: Are you experiencing leadership fatigue and what one thing will you start to implement from this list of tips?