All good leaders I observed in the last couple of years share two qualities: they don’t micromanage and they push boundaries. It doesn’t matter if they’re middle manager or SVP level.
It might look tempting to either decide or do something instead of letting a colleague do it–we all love to look smart–but that quickly turns into a nightmare as the number of people you lead increases. Nobody wants team members who are so dependent that they are incapable of doing anything on their own. Instead, you want to have a framework and a mindset in place so that they can learn, grow, and create by themselves. A leader serves as an enabler and a guide.
Good leaders also keep everyone just outside of a comfort zone. Sometimes it’s direct and obvious, but many times it’s indirect and subtle. If a leader doesn’t do that, many people will stay in the same place forever. This reminds me of what professor Harold Eugene Edgerton liked to say to his students:
The trick to education is to teach people in such a way that they don’t realize they’re learning until it’s too late.