Five Ways Leaders Can Make It Easier to Let Go

Posted 06.17.2015

ropejump2Earlier this month, I wrote a post titled What Makes It So Hard to Let Go? In this recent post I wrote for Fast Company, I outline five proven ways that leaders can make it easier to let go:

In my 15 years of executive coaching and running leadership development programs, I’ve worked with thousands of leaders charged with getting different results.

A number of scenarios can drive the demand for new results. How many of these apply to you?

  • You’ve been recently promoted.
  • You’re in the same job you were in a year ago, but the scope is a lot bigger today than it was then.
  • You’re working in an organization where the performance bar has been raised dramatically.
  • You’re operating in a constantly changing competitive environment.

Based on my experience, I’ll bet that you could check two, three, or even all four of those boxes. Most leaders check more than one. What they all have in common is that, when you’re in those situations, you have to get different results. Of course, it logically follows when you have to get different results, you have to take different actions. Otherwise, you end up living out that well-known definition of insanity.

Sure, you’ll be bringing strengths to the table that will help you achieve those new results. You might have to dial those strengths up or down depending on what you’re trying to do, but they’re assets you have and you should definitely use them.

But when you have to get new and different results, you can’t just rely exclusively on your existing strengths. You usually have to pick up some new skills and behaviors to accomplish what you’re expected to do. You also typically need to let go of some skills and behaviors that used to serve you, but are no longer the best use of your time and attention.


If you’re like 98% of the leaders I work with, your answer is letting go. Why is that? Picking up is usually a cognitive exercise. It involves learning how to do something new. Most successful professionals flourish because they’re very good at picking up new skills.

Letting go, on the other hand, is more of an emotional experience. It plays out as: “I’m not comfortable turning that over to my team,” or “I’m skeptical that it will get done correctly if I’m not involved,” or “I’m nervous about letting go of control.”

What’s the underlying emotion in any of those statements? It’s fear—of not being needed, of finding a new path, and above all, of failure. To succeed at your next level, you have to mitigate and overcome your fear of letting go.

Here are five actionable strategies for doing that:

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