Sometimes the smartest thing for a good leader to do is give up leadership.
Naval captains are renowned for their fierce loyalty to their ship and crew – many ‘going down with the ship’ when disaster strikes. They view their relationship with their ship as personal – especially when they are the first to take command.
They are entrusted with incredible responsibility. A Navy captain commanding a cruiser class combat ship is entrusted with a billion dollar vessel; a 9,600 ton ship that has the power to unleash indescribable destruction, defeating hostile surface ships, submarines, and air forces simultaneously; an 80k hp 30 craft that carries upwards of 360 highly trained personnel.
They expect to command their ship and view it as total derelict of duty to do anything else. Yet all captains, including United States Navy captains, which pass through the Panama Canal, must turn over control of their ship to a canal pilot. No exceptions.
Passage through the canal is treacherous and requires extremely unique expertise. The canal's topography changes constantly with frequent torrential rainstorms and landslides. Visibility during a rainstorm can be reduced to just the width of the vessel. Nightly fog nullifies any land based navigational aids. Some massive ships have only a 2ft side clearance as they pass through the locks. While the canal pilot would fail at commanding a naval vessel for a significant amount of time, they are the best qualified to command the vessel for its 24 hour passage through the canal.
Great leaders are the ones who realize that there are some people that do aspects of their job better than they do, and to ensure the success of the organization they must temporarily give up command – in a certain area – for a ‘day’ – for a specific task – of a particular position . . .
Some good leaders, with entirely right motives, just can’t bring themselves to give up command, and ultimately limit where the organization can go.