Are you good at what you do? Do others rely on you to get things done? Are you indispensable to your team? Is more and more work pushed your way because you are good at what you do?
In business, when someone is very good at what they do, the senior money-pushing management has a tendency to give them even more work. They see an efficient cash cow - so "let's get more out of this resource". They might make you a team leader so that you can lead others to generate output in the same efficient way that you do. So you are now a leader because you are competent at what you do.
However, not everyone in your team is going to perform at the same level as you. Some will. Others will be coasters and do as little as possible. Others will be strivers, they work hard but just don't have the skills to deliver like you. So what can you do? The money-pushing management is going to expect with a team under you that they can all perform at your level. There is a danger that you start working even harder to pick up the slack from those in your team who don't have the skills or the motivation to work like you.
This is the curse of the competent leader.
You are just too good at what you do. People rely on you to achieve results. But now, as a leader, you need to think differently.
Breaking the curse
You need to break the curse. Otherwise, you will only end up taking on more and more work to pick up the slack from others. The money-pushing management will push you harder and harder as they keep seeing results, and they want more. So how do you break this cycle?
First, you need to learn to delegate.
Delegation is a skill in itself as it is not easy to let go when you are the one who is so good at doing things right. My analogy is it's like teaching your baby child to learn to walk. You have to let go of their hand. It's ok if they fall over and land on the carpet. This is how they learn, by making mistakes. Picking themselves up and trying again. Your job as a parent is to make sure they don't hit their head on the coffee table, as that would be disastrous.
Set your expectations with your team as to what you expect. What good looks like. Then set them off to go and deliver and provide them frequent and honest feedback. This has to be done with a degree of diplomacy and tact but let them know how you are going to support them and not let them hit their head on the coffee table.
Just because you set your team off to deliver, it doesn’t take away your ownership and accountability as a leader. When they make mistakes, you own the problem. You put them in that position, you should have known if they were ready or not or needed more support. The team have to feel that you have their back and the money-pushing management will respect that you are grasping the situation by the horns.
Big picture thinking
Don't get dragged down to work at the same level as your team. If you are operating at the same level as them then you will see the problems with the same lens as them. That doesn't help them. You need to have a big picture view of what's happening amongst all the different streams of work across your team. Your team will rely on your leadership view of the world.
Have you ever heard the expressions - "they can't see the woods for the trees".? Sometimes we are so immersed in the details of our immediate surroundings that we fail to see the bigger picture. Make sure you see the woods, not just hundreds of trees.
Failing to break the curse
If you fail to break the curse, it only gets tougher and tougher. The money-pushing management will keep pushing. You will need to step in and look after more and more of your team just to keep your level of competence from fading.
In most organisations, people get promoted to a level where they start showing signs of incompetence and then they get stuck. Many organisation do not support their people to learn leadership skills and how to thrive in these types of pressured scenarios. Don't be one of them - break the curse.