Trust your team: four tips to stepping aside

When you maintain a leadership role, it’s tempting to take charge all the time. But you have to know when to hand off responsibility to members of your team. Leaders know when to make decisions, but they also know when to trust others to make those decisions for them.

Being a leader is an important role, and we often feel tempted to fulfill and build up those expectations. But an often unrecognized quality of leadership is knowing when to shut up and step aside. Not everything needs your stamp of approval or your opinion, so here are four tips to help you identify that moment when you’re not needed.

Your skill set isn’t involved

Good leaders realize that their knowledge and experiences are limited in few different aspects. That’s okay. You might know your organization better than anyone in the world, but some components will still require a specialized skill set that you don’t have. Trust the experts or your employees who carry the strengths that you lack. Make sure your talents are being used where they’re most needed, while you let others take care of those issues that function as roadblocks to your skill sets.

You have a full plate — delegate

Time is a luxury, so treat it like one. You don’t have to be at the forefront of every decision because there are other people in your organization who can do that for you. Recognize that and take advantage of that fact. Know what situations and components of your organization actually require your attention and know when you can afford to pass it on to a capable member of your team. They’re your team, so use them.

A new perspective doesn’t hurt

A great leader is always striving to learn new things and create new opportunities. There’s only one way to do that, and that’s by allowing yourself to take a minute to sit and listen to a few fresh voices. You won’t get the best work out of your team members if they’re waiting for you to tell them to jump, so let them know that their opinions and ideas matter. Let them work out problems on their own, and it’s likely they’ll do it better than you could have imagined.

Ego can make a team fragile

While you might be the most talented person in the world, you don’t and shouldn’t do everything. You won’t always know better, and thinking you do all the time could injure your team. Try to be humble, know your flaws and allow others to fill the gaps. Don’t let your self-importance get in the way and trust your team to do the job they were hired to do.

What new leaders need to do right away

It is inevitable that any organization will have a new leader, and it’s
always an adjustment. While it can be an exciting and hopeful time filled with the possibilities of a new direction, it still takes time to earn trust and loyalty from those who have been there for a long period of time.

Nevertheless, a new leader should see this as an opportunity to learn and engage their team. Below are five tips to incorporate in your leadership style to find immediate success.

Speak to everyone

While your initial instinct will be to speak to the people who hired you and your immediate subordinates, you need to expand your pool. In order for people to support your leadership, you need to show your face and prove that you care about people at all levels. When new leaders come in, some people might be skeptical. Address that skepticism head on and find its foundation. Getting to the root of these issues can immediately help you to succeed as you build your strategic vision for the organization. And who knows what you might learn at the same time. 

Identify influencers

Once you’ve spoken to everyone, find the natural leaders amongst them. This is some of your top talent, and you’ll want to bolster their success. It may take some time to identify who produces the best quality work, but once you do you’ve found the foundation of your company. Be sure to invest in these people and expand based upon their talents.

Showcase success

In that vein, it is important to also point out the people who are succeeding. This redoubles their efforts, shows that you acknowledge success, and stimulates a culture of hard work. This will also inspire camaraderie and pushes employees to collaborate and address the agenda that you’ve set for the organization in a productive way.

Be an open book

Don’t hide the challenges the company faces. If people feel closed out, they don’t feel readily engaged. While you may not be able to share everything, there are certainly important ideas and issues that you want your employees to consider. And by sharing, you’ve inspired your team because they feel like valued members of the organization.

Value accountability

If you take people’s ideas seriously, then more ideas will flourish. But make sure you take them seriously in a way that you expect results. While it’s great to have someone who can come up with a million ideas off the top of their head, telling your team that execution is key makes them feel inclined to prove their validity. It’s about finding a solution, not only identifying problems.

Should you have a mentor? Probably.

When considering a mentor, it is first important to get to the foundation of what exactly we mean by “mentoring.” Mentoring is a personal relationship in which a more experienced (usually older) mentor acts as a guide, role-model, and sponsor of a less experienced (usually younger) protégé.

Mentors provide protégés with knowledge, advice, challenge, counsel, and support in their pursuit of becoming full members of a profession as well as becoming effective leaders. This is different from “coaching” which normally refers to shorter term relationships to seek and acquire often technical skills though at times coach can well become a mentor.

I firmly believe most people particularly when embarking on a new career path can benefit markedly from having a mentor. This is particularly true from young people who (as you can see from the definition provided) are embarking on a career in a “profession.” According to sociologists the “professions” include the military, law (to include lawyers as well as law enforcement), medicine, theologians, and educators. These career paths are different from other positions in society.

First, the members of a “profession” have control over an abstract body of knowledge. They are entrusted by society to develop this body of knowledge throughout their careers when they as the professions custodians. Doctors and medical researchers are expected to continue their development as medical professionals during their career while seeking better methods to treat injury and disease.

Second, members of a profession are entrusted by society with a certain degree of autonomy over who may enter the profession as well as determining who has violated the norms of the profession and must lose their “license to practice.” Doctors, military officers, and theologians swear oaths. If they are determined to be operating outside what is acceptable they lose their license, are court-martialed, or are defrocked.

Finally, those who enter a profession are motivated to provide an essential service to society that is critical for society to operate, develop, and survive. Obviously, we all believe that the external security provided by the military is critical, medical personnel treat our ailments, theologians comfort us in our moments of need, and we need a legal system that includes law enforcement if society is to function.

Consequently, I believe that those entering a profession have a heightened need for mentors to insure they fully understand its norms, standards of practice, and are encouraged to continue their professional development.


Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.

Leadership Found and Fought at the Alamo

Some historians regard the Mexican defeat in the Texas Revolution as among the most influential developments in the emergence of the United States as a hemispheric and, eventually, a world power.

The Diamond6 Alamo Leadership Study offers thought-provoking insights from a battle and campaign that seem familiar—but are not generally well understood. On-the-ground study of this Revolution opens up discoveries that can benefit today’s leaders as they grapple with unpredictable change, inter-cultural influences, powerful personalities, a highly volatile environment, and competing stakeholder aims.

The chaotic conditions in Texas and Mexico in 1836 presented leaders on both sides with wickedly complex challenges. In San Antonio both groups operated at the far end of their range of influence. Misunderstandings of the situation and of the opposition’s aims and qualities forced Samuel Houston, Travis, and David Bowie on the Texian side and Santa Anna and his political and military aides on the other to guess and improvise almost every day.

For the Anglo-Tejano rebels, unexpected attacks on their legal rights, uncontrolled influx of American adventurers, and economic penalties imposed by Santa Anna’s government provoked an ill-organized, mutually suspicious resistance. Disagreements over the question of independence or reform and disputed leadership at state level put Travis and Bowie in a tough, risky position in San Antonio early in the year. Their Tejano partners, led by Navarro and Seguin, faced choices that were doubly hard. In both groups a mistaken conception of Santa Anna’s intention and abilities led them to dangerously false assumptions and compelled rebel leaders to make snap decisions that had decisive effects.

On the other side, Santa Anna saw the resistance in Texas as yet another instance in a long line of Yankee incursions into Mexico. Insecure in power and dealing with opposition in Mexico City and in other states, he had to force a quick decision. His response was ingenious in some respects but deeply flawed in others. The leadership environment he imposed on his army and government played a central part in the contest’s outcome and is notably useful for study today.

The perceptions of observers on all sides constrained their choices and created problems analogous to those that leaders face today. The neutral citizens of Mexico, the population and government of the United States, several European powers, and the Native American tribes of the region all figured in the choices that the opposing leaders had to make.

San Antonio became a decisive point for both sides, unwittingly for the rebels and deliberately for Santa Anna. In the Alamo Leadership Study, participants examine how the actions of Travis and Santa Anna brought on a crisis for both sides. Diamond 6’s expert historians and authorities on leadership theory assist them in developing new ideas about the case itself and about the application of leadership principles to current problems. Past participants from both the private and public sectors have enhanced their leader skills individually and as teams through this event.


Don Holder is an independent consultant on leadership, Joint Force and Army doctrine, and training.  As one of six Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) Senior Mentors, he coached commanders of Army corps, divisions and brigades in advanced training exercises.  He advises doctrine writers and force designers on future operations and lectures on theater operations at foreign and US service schools.

Understanding Lincoln

Our colleague and resident Abraham Lincoln expert Matt Pinsker is conducting an incredible on-line course titled “Understanding Lincoln.” Diamond6 CEO Jeff McCausland was asked to participate. The responses to the discussion from grateful teachers has been incredible. We’ve included some below:

– “Wow!!! Great Session!!!! Best Ever!!!!  I learned so much and I have watched it again after the live presentation. I can never thank you enough for the education I get from your amazing vision on how to make better teachers in our country. It was just a big fat WOW today!!!”

– “Thank you for reading my question – how thrilling to watch a panel of experts discuss my thoughts! I really enjoyed the round table from beginning to end!”

We think the exclamation points say it all. Jeff had a great time participating in this Presidential War Powers session and can’t wait to take part in the next one on January 25 at 10 am EST. Please take a moment and watch the video embedded below.

Leadership and Globalization

globalizationGlobalization is how many describe the period in which we live.  It is clearly dynamic and characterized by near constant change.  Furthermore, globalization describes an ongoing process by which economies, societies and cultures have become integrated through globe-spanning networks.  Experts agree that it is driven by a combination of economic, technological, sociocultural, political and biological factors.  Furthermore, it also refers to the transnational dissemination of ideas, languages, or popular culture.  Tom Friedman, the celebrated author described it in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree as “the 100-meter dash, over and over and over.  And no matter how many times you win, you have to race again the next day.  And if you lose by just one-hundredth of a second, it can be as if you lost by an hour.

Clearly, leaders have a major role in how their organizations and teams deal with both the challenges and opportunities of globalization.  I recently ran a series of seminars for a large school district leadership team focused on various aspects of globalization and how it affects education.  We discussed in detail changes that every school district must consider both in terms of structure and curriculum.  One of our speakers made a remarkable observation.  “Educators,” he said “are the first responders to globalization”.

I am firmly convinced this is absolutely true.  Educators are members of a profession. Dr. Andrew Abbott, one of the nation’s experts on the sociology of professions, argues that professions (theologians, the military, law enforcement, and doctors) have three common characteristics.  First, each is responsible for the continued development of an abstract body of knowledge that is critical to society.  Second, society grants professions a certain level of autonomy.  Professions have rituals and licensing to grant membership and have the authority to remove individuals if they violate its norms.  Third, each profession provides a service to society, which is critical if it is to endure and prosper.  With this in mind I believe society holds leaders in education responsible for preparing the next generation to deal with both the challenges and opportunities that globalization offers.

As I thought about this further I was reminded of the words of another great “educator” – Fred Rogers (AKA “Mr. Rogers”).  Fred once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’  Globalization may be scary at times to all of us, and particularly students who realize it will frame their future.  Consequently, if Fred’s Mom was with us today I think she would be talking about educators….


[1] Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, New York: Anchor Books, 2000, p. 7.

Image from HERE.

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Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.
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Leadership Lessons of “Triage”

September marked the 150th anniversary of what is arguably the most decisive battle during the American Civil War – Antietam.  Many historians might contest this point and suggest that Gettysburg was the “high watermark of the Confederacy”.  Still a Union defeat at Antietam would have further delayed Lincoln’s decision to announce the Emancipation Proclamation which redefined the purpose of the war.  It could have also encouraged Britain and France to recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation that could have led to their intervention.  Finally, another Federal defeat in September 1862 would have further inspired those in the North who opposed the war to greater success in that fall’s congressional and state elections.  Sadly, Antietam holds an even greater distinction in American history.  It was the bloodiest single day in the American Civil War.  Over 25,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed or wounded in one day of fighting.

But historically wars also have encouraged innovation and the need for leaders to deal with new and frequently enormous problems.  The mass casualties suffered by both sides resulted in rapid advances not only in medicine but also the management and treatment of these huge numbers.  For example, it was during the Battle of Antietam that a young woman from Washington, Clara Barton, would appear with a wagon of supplies to treat the wounded.  Her efforts during the remainder of the war would eventually result in the creation of the American Red Cross.

It was also at about this time that a young Union Army Captain, Jonathan Letterman, would begin to ponder how to deal with this “wicked problem”.  Letterman would convince the Union Army leadership to assign a doctor to each regiment, organize medical teams that were the advent of today’s medics, and invent the field ambulance.   He also formulated a new method for dealing with mass casualties known as “triage” that General Omar Bradley, the famous World War II commander, would later describe as the greatest innovation in military medicine.

Letterman argued that military doctors and aid workers must be trained to quickly assess the extent of a soldier’s injuries and “triage” or classify the wounded into three groups.  First, were those so badly wounded that they were deemed terminal with no hope of recovery.  These were managed by chaplains and nurses who could make them as comfortable as possible.  Second, were wounded whose treatment could be delayed.  They might require some immediate treatment to stem the bleeding, but this could be handled by nurses or medical orderlies.  Third, the soldiers with injuries that if they were immediately addressed had a good chance of survival.  They were moved quickly surgery and the immediate attention of the available doctors.

“Triage” saved countless lives during the Civil War and in conflicts ever since.  But it is also a concept that leaders can apply as they deal with a mounting number of problems that clog their inbox on a daily basis.  Leaders must quickly scan their email or office inbox and ask themselves the following questions:

  • First:  Which problems are terminal or have been overcome by events?  There still may be issues of so-called “consequence management”, that may need to be confronted, but these can often be handled by others in the organization.
  • Second:  Which problems can be delayed or deferred?  We sometimes need to consider whether a problem is “ripe”?  Is it time to deal with it or should we let it evolve?  Can others in the organization deal with this problem which will both free up critical time for senior leaders (like the few doctors at Antietam) and allow subordinates an opportunity to both better develop their potential and confidence?
  • Third:  Is this an issue that demands the immediate attention of senior leaders?   Does this problem directly affect the essence of our organization, or is this an opportunity that the organization cannot fail to miss?

Making this calculation is invaluable to leaders.  It further forces them to understand that some problems are “wicked problems” like mass casualties during the American Civil War.  These are those challenges that are probably never “solved” but are “managed”.  For example, our national leaders will likely never solve the threat posed by AIDS, poverty, world hunger, etc.  But the importance of these problems demands every effort to “manage” them as effectively as possible and move us in the direction of a long term solution.  Every organization has such problems that will unlikely be “solved” at least during the term of the current leadership, but they must be “managed”.  Failing to do so can have dramatic consequences just as it did on the.

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Dr. Jeff McCausland is Founder and CEO of Diamond6 Leadership and Strategy, LLC. His most challenging and unique leadership experience was leading and commanding 750 troops into the first Gulf War. He is proud to say that everyone came home healthy and safe.
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