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Donny Deutsch: The disappearing boss

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills,Profiles in Leadership

Donny Deutsch sums up the secret of leadership in 10 words: You need to be comfortable enough not to be needed.

An advertising executive and television personality, Deutsch warns that some CEOs have an inflated sense of their role. They assume they’re indispensable to the business.

Yet the ability to delegate, to become what Deutsch calls “a disappearing boss,” can prove far more impactful. Giving high-potential subordinates more responsibility helps them develop and frees your time.

Deutsch sets two conditions for effective delegating: Control your ego and accept that others may operate differently from you to reach the same goal.

When running his advertising firm, he hired a young creative director, Eric, who excelled in his job. When one of Deutsch’s big clients told him he didn’t need to show up at the next meeting—that Eric was “a great presenter"—Deutsch was momentarily shocked.

Upon reflection, he celebrated his good fortune. He realized the account was in Eric’s capable hands and he could focus on other accounts.

Eric quickly emerged as a hotshot in his own right. He started complaining to Deutsch, “Every client wants me and I have to be everywhere!”

Deutsch counseled him to hire a promising underling “as good as, if not better than, you are.” He even encouraged Eric to recruit a candidate with more experience and better credentials.

Eric followed Deutsch’s advice. By assembling a stellar team, he made sure he wasn’t needed as the lead executive giving client presentations. The company kept growing and Deutsch concluded that by hiring hungry, talented employees and throwing them in the deep end of the pool, “you get greatness.”

— Adapted from Often Wrong, Never In Doubt, Donny Deutsch and Peter Knobler, HarperCollins.

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