Many leaders fall into the trap of making themselves irreplaceable, and this often hurts their company and people in the long run. There are several reasons why this happens, and in this article, we will explore some of them. Additionally, we will discuss how leaders can avoid these common pitfalls and make themselves replaceable.
Common pitfalls of leadership
Taking an extended leave
One of the biggest challenges I see with leaders is their ability to take an extended leave from the company. I was the best example of a person who made themselves irreplaceable. I didn’t take vacations because I feared that something would happen while I was gone, and I wouldn’t be able to fix it. Consequently, this led to burnout, which is an enormous problem for leaders.
There are many reasons why leaders don’t take vacations, but the most common one is that they feel like they can’t afford to be away from the office for more than a few days. They believe that if they’re not there, things will fall apart. This is a leadership myth that needs to be debunked.
The truth is, if you’re a great leader, you should be able to take an extended leave without the company falling apart. If you’ve done your job well, you will have built a strong team that can handle things in your absence. If you haven’t done your job well, then no amount of time spent in the office will fix that.
So, if you’re a leader who’s been putting off taking a vacation because you’re afraid of what might happen, it’s time to rethink your strategy.
No one else can do that
This is a common pitfall with high performing individuals. Once they are in position, they think that no one else can do the job as well as they can. This is often true, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take a step back and let someone else have a shot.
Think about it this way- if you’re the only person who can do your job, what happens when you get sick or hit by a bus? I was at fault with this mindset for a while. I’ve picked up a good number of skills and could solve even the most challenging situations that came my way. Then, I started thinking, would anyone else be able to do that when I’m not around? I’ve proved myself wrong after I resigned from a job, delegated my responsibilities, and realized that a group of people could easily do things I did on my own.
Leadership is not about you, it’s about the people and the company you lead. When you make yourself irreplaceable, you’re really just putting your own ego ahead of what’s best for the company.
Multiplier vs diminisher
I’ve run into this term in the book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, written by Liz Wiseman. She introduces two extreme ends of the leadership sphere: multipliers and diminishers. As a diminisher, people reduce the effectiveness of everyone in the organization. They often drain the enthusiasm and focus on their own priorities rather than those of their team.
I haven’t witnessed a diminisher directly, but I had discussions with people who had bosses who were diminishers. They described their bosses as people who:
📌 Hoarded information and power
📌 Created a sense of fear
📌 Micromanaged everything
📌 Took all the credit
📌 Gave no recognition
On the other hand, multipliers are those leaders who inspire others and get the most out of everyone. They make their team feel like they can accomplish anything. Multipliers:
✅ Delegate and trust others
✅ Focus on results rather than control
✅ Encourage and recognize others
✅ Provide clear direction
✅ Are coachable themselves
From what I’ve seen, leadership is not about having all the answers. It’s about being able to ask the right questions, listen to feedback, and learn from your mistakes. The best leaders are always learning and growing. They’re also replaceable.
How do you make yourself replaceable as a leader?
There are many strategies you can use to make yourself replaceable. While there are many, not all of them will work for everyone. I’ve put together 8 ways you can become a replaceable leader.
1. Avoid a single point of failure
As a leader, you don’t want to have a single point of failure. This means you want as many options as possible. From permissions to guidance to strategy, everything must be adaptable. If anything goes wrong, nothing should be able to bring your company or department to a halt. That includes you and your team as well.
2. Identify talent early
One of the most important things you can do to make yourself replaceable is to identify talent early. This includes not only your own team but also other potential leaders in your company. By doing this, you can develop a leadership pipeline. This will help ensure that there is always someone ready and willing to step up when needed.
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3. Encourage development
Once you have identified potential leaders, it is important to encourage their development. We can do this in several ways, such as providing opportunities for them to lead projects or initiatives, giving them stretch assignments, and offering mentorship and coaching. By doing this, you will help them grow into the leadership role you envision for them.
4. Intentionally delegate
In order to develop leadership skills in others, you need to be intentional about delegating tasks and responsibilities. This can be difficult for leaders, as they often want to do everything themselves. However, it is important to delegate in order to give others the opportunity to step up and lead.
5. Build a sense of trust
Another important way to develop leadership skills in others is to build a sense of trust. This means being transparent, keeping your word, and following through on your commitments. When others trust you, they are more likely to follow your lead.
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6. Encourage feedback
It is important to encourage feedback from those you are trying to develop into leaders. This feedback should be honest and constructive, and it should be used to help improve everyone’s leadership skills.
7. Put the needs of the team before your own
A great leader always puts the needs of the team before their own. This means making decisions that may not be popular, but that are in the best interest of the team. It also means being willing to sacrifice your own time and resources to help the team succeed.
8. Be Willing to Let Go
When the time comes, it is important to be willing to let go. This can be difficult, especially if you have been in the leadership role for a long time. However, it is important to remember that you are doing this for the good of the company and the people you lead. If you are not willing to let go, it will be difficult to find someone who can fill your shoes.
Become a replaceable leader
Making oneself replaceable may seem like it goes against the idea of leadership, but it’s actually one of the best things a leader can do for their company. It shows that they are confident in their abilities and are willing to put the company’s needs first. So, if you’re a leader, ask yourself: Are you replaceable? If not, it might be time to make some changes.
Making those changes isn’t as difficult as you might believe. You can start by reading the article below in which I explored the effects of toxic leadership, covered 6 common toxic behaviors, and what you need to do to avoid being a toxic leader.
How to Avoid Being a Toxic Leader
When most people think of the term “toxic leader,” they might imagine someone who is verbally abusive, intimidating, and arrogant. While these are certainly toxic