The Moses Complex - 6 Tips for Leaders In Spite of Themselves

At this time of year, I always doubt myself (ok, I do it that more than just at this time of year). The reason why is simple--it's job appraisal time. You know, that moment when you walk into your supervisor's office, and explain yourself and your actions.

Pharoah (boss) vs Moses (Leader)...but that doesn't work. Didn't the Pharaoh lead his troops into the Red Sea?

Like Robert Quinn, author of Deep Change,  points out, it's easy to feel like a fake. You wonder when you're a grown-up in a job and someone will say to you, "Hey, I know you are faking it and we're going to fire you, get someone in place that knows what they are doing." Or, as I like to characterize this approach to leadership, "The Moses Complex."

If you didn't know, Moses in the Bible is one of my favorite characters. He is the epitome of the reluctant leader--which,actually, is supposed to be a good thing--denying God when He tapped Moses on the shoulder to lead the people out of Egypt. "Send someone else," Moses pleaded. "I'm a terrible speaker. My brother Aaron can do a much better job." God grows frustrated. That's because God uses us in spite of our weaknesses.

Another defining moment for Moses is when he takes credit for his team's (in this case, God's) effort for sustenance in the desert. As a result, he leads people to the Promised Land but can't follow along with them. He's stuck. I love such flawed individuals in the Bible...and in life. We are all called to be leaders in spite of ourselves...in spite of our weaknesses. That's why it's so easy to be a boss rather than a leader. A boss, I suspect, is focused on never being weak, never being vulnerable, while a leader accepts those vulnerabilities...and decides the work is more important.



That's why when I see posters like the one Jenny Luca and Heather KennedyPlant shared via Twitter (displayed above), I get a little defensive. Or, when I see other awesome leaders doing stuff I can't even imagine, I get a little irritated. "I've gotta do more," goes the dialogue in my head. "Why aren't you doing more? Why aren't we doing more?"

One can come up with lots of great ideas, but then implementation suffers because you're not doing two things: 1) Coming up with new items for your Stop-Doing List; and 2) Allocating team expertise properly.

Is that remark too full of itself? At a time when hierarchies are flat, team members can connect and collaborate with each other whether the supervisor is there or not, who allocates expertise? The leader, the boss, or the organization's needs?

I like to imagine that my management IS the contribution I make as a leader, but that often means sending people into work's way. Is that so wrong? Is that too "bossy?" Posters like the ones in this blog entry make me think so. And, it jives with that voice in my head that says, "Get in there...do more!" with the feeling that "Your most will never be quite enough." And, funny enough, that's true.

You know, some common issues...
  1. No time - Push yourself to do one new thing a week and make it a habit. Drop something unproductive.
  2. Too much delegating - Empower people to delegate tasks that need doing to themselves.
  3. Depleted energy - Learn to recharge your batteries from the radiance of others around you.
  4. Not doing enough - Ask the people you serve to share 1 thing they would want you to do, then put it on your list of goals.
  5. Uninvolved - If someone else "owns" the project on your team, ask them what you can do to amplify or support their efforts? Essentially, "what can I do to help you be better?"
  6. Taking Credit - If you see others attributing credit to you for work your team has done, why not find a way to celebrate team contributions in a public way so that others know what the team does? Kind of make yourself appear unnecessary (counter-intuitive, I know, since we often want to justify our existence to our supervisor, especially during appraisal time!!).

Do you suffer from the Moses Complex? If you're wondering where I fall, I'd have to get a final ruling from my team. In truth, I am a boss. That's me behind the desk. It's a horrible, scathing indictment of my approach to management and leadership.

Ah well, that spot right before the Promised Land...that doesn't look as bad as I thought. And, I will have great company. At least, Moses knows how to find food and water in the desert.



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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


Comments

David Truss said…
Miguel, this is wonderful & wise!
It reminds me of a post I wrote about Leadership AND Management, and how we need to do both well. This goes beyond what I was trying to express. The link to a wonderful story and your reflection on self-efficacy has really hit a chord with me and I think it will with many others too. I just wrote a post on 'finding balance' this morning, and I'll take your tips to heart when seeking balance. Thank You!

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