Self-Sufficiency Can Be a Hazardous Leadership Trait

Self-sufficiency is something we hold high in our society, and it starts at a young age. As parents, we celebrate each little milestone our children make toward self-sufficiency, from tying their own shoes to getting their driver’s license.

By the time young adults enter the workforce, most realize that being self-sufficient is an admirable trait, for a lot of reasons. We want to appear smart, confident, and capable, so we hide our doubts, avoid asking questions, and conceal any hint of appearing vulnerable.

The problem comes when we become too self-sufficient and place all our trust in ourselves – leaving little room for us to trust or learn from others. An overly self-sufficient leader:

  • Limits their effectiveness. When we resist relying on our teammates, we deny them valuable learning opportunities they could get from being allowed to play into different projects.
  • Restricts their own capabilities. We maximize our individual effectiveness when we work as a team. When we resist relying on others, we limit what we can accomplish.
  • Burns out. Always being the only one who can get things done or always concealing our thoughts or concerns is exhausting.
  • Establishes independence as an expectation. If you resist being vulnerable or reliant on your team, your team will assume you expect the same of them.
  • Trusts less. If you won’t rely on me or be open with me, you must not trust me.
  • Can’t connect with others beyond a surface level. Total self-sufficiency puts up a barrier between us and our teammates, family, and friends.

I’m all about the team, but when it comes to dealing with difficult times, my natural tendency is to turn inward and try to figure it all out by myself. As a business leader, this negatively impacts my ability to lead and influence my teammates. And as a person of faith, this negatively impacts my ability to rely on and trust God. In my current season, I am working on being less self-sufficient in challenging times.

In what areas do you need to fight the urge to be totally self-sufficient?

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  • Earl Breon says:

    Great post! One of the 11 Leadership Fundamentals I teach is, “Know yourself and seek self improvement.” That includes knowing your strengths and weaknesses as well as their limits and when to look for outward help. By being able to do that you build trust and authenticity. People love to follow a leader who is nearly invulnerable but is comfortable in how they address the vulnerabilities that do exist.