Why Great Leaders Don’t Become Bottlenecks


Leadership is tough.

Especially when the stakes are high. And when mistakes are easy to make or there is a need to be extra careful, it’s only human nature for any leader to want to double check that everything is going smoothly and dive into extra detail if neccessary.

The problem is, there’s a very thin line between being diligent and simply getting in the way.

Yes, its useful to add valuable insight to that new client proposal – but is it worth it if it means a long unnecessary delay?

Is double-checking those important terms really worth it if your specialist department has already spend careful time reviewing?

And worst of all….do you really have to ensure all big decisions are always authorised by you personally if you really want your team to feel empowered and valued?

In fifteen years working with some of the highest performing business leaders, I can say with confidence that the highest performers realise the importance of this balance.

What makes them great leaders is not just the ability to jump in and help when needed, but sometimes precisely the opposite: the understanding of when it’s the right time to simply get out the way.

Here are some reasons why great leaders don’t become bottlenecks.

It makes things tedious

The one thing that none of us can create more off is time.

In all aspects of our lives – whether it is business, relationships or our social lives – most of us know what the principles to success are. Usually they are simple. The only thing that prevents us from making our goals actually happen is to choose how we prioritise our precious time and focus on the things that are most important to us.

In the ever increasing competitive world of business, this is especially true.

In order to succeed in winning or maintaining market share, it’s never been more important to be able to spend resources as effectively as possible and to move quickly and decisively.

Nothing can be more destructive to this need to move quickly than a leadership layer that insists on making all decisions themselves. It slows things down. Great leaders understand that having authority doesn’t mean insisting on having final say all the time.

Not only does this waste time and energy, it can also create unnecessary confusion and complexity and in some cases even mean losing out to competitors who put your new ideas into action before you do.

Great leaders act decisively.

It alienates others

As innately social creatures, what all of us really desire deep down is purpose.

To know, that whatever we do – however big or small – has some meaning and value.

We can accept being wrong. We’re happy to learn and improve. But being ignored or having our work being regarded as unimportant feels unforgivable.

But thats what happens in the board room every day.

The classic corporate culture goes something like this: work hard for weeks (maybe even months or years) to tell us what you think is best for the business, and then we (a few members of the management team) will decide in a few hours whether to put it into action or relegate it to the trash folder.

No wonder employee disengagement is becoming an ever increasing problem.

Great leaders understand that even with the best intentions, no one likes a boss who always insists on having the final say. Not only can this become demotivating and create the impression of not trusting the team to make decisions, ultimately it can even result in outright resentment.

Great leaders trust others.

It kills growth

One of the most satisfying experience of my career so far has been working with start-ups and high growth companies.

There’s something rewarding, fascinating and often inspiring about seeing businesses literally start from nothing to become billion dollar industry changing companies.

Yet a lot of these companies don’t fulfil their true potential. They make good starts, but then struggle to grow and scale.

And often this can be due to an age old business problem.

Most MBA schools usually even have a case study on it:

The entrepreneur CEO who struggles to let go.

Its easy to see why this happens. Even borderline understandable. By default, entrepreneurs often take the biggest risk and usually toil hard to finally get the business stable. With resources and investment scarce at the start, often they have to multi-task – having to learn new things continuously and making almost all big decisions on their own.

The problem is, its easy for these early habits to become ingrained. And unfortunately the things that require a start-up to survive are not necessary the same skills needed to aggressively grow and scale a business. Hence by continuing to make all major decisions as the business matures, bottleneck entrepreneurs can easily reach their “maximum capacity” after which growth and progression stagnates.

Great leaders understand that the best organisations thrive on their own. Their job as leaders is to simply steer the ship and delegate effectively – not to just try and micromanage and understand every little detail possible.

They get out of the way when necessary and allow the organisation to fully blossom and grow.

Great leaders allow growth.


Leaderships isn’t just about getting “stuck in” all the time.

Sometimes, knowing when to get out the way can be even more powerful.

Great leaders understand that having authority doesn’t mean always having the final say. By getting involved in too much or not giving others enough responsibility, its easy to become an annoying bottleneck that stifles growth and alienates others.

Do you know a bottleneck?

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