5 Signs You’re A Leader Who Needs To Be Needed (Why You Never Get A Break)

Finding it hard to take a break?

Many leaders do.

The question is why. If you’ve ever said things to yourself like:

  • I can never really seem to get away
  • My company needs me. I can’t really take time off.
  • Every time I leave for a vacation or getaway, something at work always comes up

…then at some point, it helps to look in the mirror.

Sometimes it’s not a case that people need you as much as it is that you need to be needed.

This is a challenge on two fronts. First, it will make it almost impossible for you to take a real break or vacation, which can add up to a big personal cost over time..

Second, it’s a cap on your growth and the organization’s growth.

The most valuable leaders in an organization are those who, ironically, aren’t needed day to day because they have grown other leaders. The logic is a little counterintuitive, but the more a senior leader is needed in the day to day, the less valuable he or she is to the organization.

Leaders who need to be needed rarely develop other leaders. At best, they simply attract doers and followers, and that stunts everyone’s growth.

So what are some signs that you might be a leader who needs to be needed? Here are five.

1. You have a hard time taking time off

A simple sign that you might be a leader who needs to be needed is that you have a hard time taking time off.

That could be because you don’t want to leave, or it might be because you really do want to get away but something always comes up, sabotaging your plans.

You’re so in the weeds on every decision and needed for so much that it feels impossible to get away for a week…or a month.

If you have a hard time time taking time off, maybe the challenge isn’t the organization. Maybe it’s you.

2. You like to be liked

So you probably want people to like you. Who doesn’t?

If we’re gut-honest with each other, most of us would rather be liked rather than not liked.

Taking time off inevitably means disappointing people. Sure, you can work ahead and get your work done. But it inevitability means you won’t be available to meet with people, jump in on projects or be available to respond to crises.

When I served as a pastor at a local church, this was especially challenging. Did you ‘come back from vacation’ to do funerals or weddings, or to respond to people’s illnesses?

In the early years that was a constant tension. I wanted to be liked, but my messes were ruining my family time.

Eventually as the church grew we developed a system of people caring for each other, rather than me caring for everyone.

Still, there are always people who want you and nobody else.

So here’ the tension: leaders, if you like to be liked, you won’t lead. If you need to be needed, neither you, the people you lead, and your cause, won’t grow.

3. If things get too quiet, you’ll reach out to see what you can do

Sometimes as a leader, the organization operates just fine without you, but the silence makes you nervous.

So, even though you’re on vacation, you check in just to see what’s going on. And as soon as you hear about something that piques your interest, you jump back in.

It’s easy to pretend the organization needs you, but a constant need to check-in and intervene shows it’s not the organization nearly as much as it’s you.

4. You have a hard time delegating

Delegation is hard for a lot of leaders, and it’s almost impossible for leaders who need to be needed.

There will be 100 reasons.

People rely on me

I have no one who can really do that for me

We just don’t have the team yet

At different points in an organization’s life cycle, all of that is true. But it’s a perpetual script for leaders who need to be needed.

5. You want to know everything

This can be a particular challenge for founders and leaders in small organizations. When you start something or what you’re leading is small, you can know everything and to some extent need to know everything.

But over time, if you’re going to grow, that has to change.

As a leader, you’re always responsible for what happens, but needing to know everything greatly caps your growth.  At some point in a larger organization, you can’t know everything that’s going on. It’s just too big.

When I was a pastor, I found that at the 600 attendance mark, I lost the ability to track everything that’s going on.

In the last few years in my company, the same thing has happened.  Even though writing, speaking and podcasting are intensely personal, as the audience here has grown I’ve built a team that handles most of the day to day decisions and increasingly, more of the strategy.

The question really is whether you want to reach more people.

For too many leaders, the need to know is bigger than your desire to grow

If your need to know is bigger than your desire to grow, you won’t grow.

It’s really that simple.

What Keeps You From Getting Away?

What keeps you from getting away? Anything keep you needing to be needed?

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5 Signs You’re A Leader Who Needs To Be Needed (Why You Never Get A Break)

1 Comment

  1. spider solitaire on September 22, 2021 at 9:23 am

    Any idea what the best outreach opportunity of the year at your church might be?

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