We all know about the great brand Burberry – the iconic British maker of luxury trench coats, scarves, luggage, clothing and shoes.
Well, this past summer an interesting leadership story played out at the company. One that all leaders need to pay attention to.
Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey relinquished his position as the chief executive when the company’s board elected to bring in another fashion heavyweight – former Céline chief executive Marco Gobbetti – to take over day-to-day operations starting in January 2017.
Bailey is set to become president and chief creative officer, which will give him continuing input into the design of the Burberry line.
What led to the shake-up? Industry analysts and dissidents on the company’s board had come to the conclusion that running the business and helping to forge the creative vision had become too much for Bailey to carry on his own. The fact that Burberry has seen declining profits seemed to bolster this view.
Bailey’s setback is a crucial reminder to leaders at all levels of organizations that it is a mistake to take on too much work and responsibility.
In my experience, I find that far too many leaders complain about how they are constantly “under water,” or how they are so busy “putting out fires.” While this is a reality of leadership roles today, it can undermine our ability to truly lead in a truly accountable manner.
Even for most capable leaders, there is peril in trying to take on too much.
So it’s important to pause every once in a while to reflect on how you are leading and whether you are well positioned to create the greatest value you can for your company.
In fact, in my last blog I suggested my readers take some time over the summer to do their own mid-year review and reflect on their performance as a leader.
Did you? What insights did you gain?
Well I certainly took some time to reflect and one of the things I realized was that I was trying to do too much. This is why the Burberry story was so interesting to me.
In my case, I took on a new leadership role at my company last October that expanded my responsibilities on a global role scale. I was also building out a new unit that has required my team and I use our entrepreneurial skills. This is something that I love to do.
However, at the same time, it’s easy for a role like this to grow out of control as one takes on new tasks and challenges. So, it prompted me to take a step back and really plan out how I’m going to build out this new function while maintaining a focus on providing value and driving results at Lee Hecht Harrison. This is the only way I can ensure I am not trying to do too much.
As I reflected on my own situation, I recognized how often many of the leaders I’ve worked with in the past simply do not realize when they are trying to do too much.
Many leaders are tempted to be like superheroes – working inhuman hours and forcing themselves to endure stress and pressure that would crush lesser beings. The reality is that many business leaders and CEOs are actually overextended and, as a result, end up doing more harm than good to their organizations.
When I took a hard look at my new role, I realized that I needed to focus on building a new team with the capacity to share the load. If you are overextended and you don’t delegate effectively, you run the risk of becoming a single point of vulnerability within your organization.
Some leaders will be reluctant to ask others to help share the load. They fear admitting that they are struggling will be seen as a sign of weakness. This is a dangerous mindset for any leader.
If you are struggling to tread water, and fail to ask for help, there is a very good chance that if you go down, you will take your entire team or organization with you.
This week’s gut check question: are you doing way too much in your leadership role?