Why Great Leaders Know When To Back-Off


By Jas Singh

Recently, one of my good friends took a job within the financial services division of a multi-national software company.

One of the biggest reasons that she took the job was her new manager-to-be. He’s known in their industry as a great teacher – who really supports his sales staff and continually looking to help when he can.

Things started great. But last week I met her for lunch – and now six months into the job she was frustrated. Although the constant contact with her boss was great at first (and a refreshing change) it had now gone too far. He was literally in her face all the time.

She was beginning to feel suffocated.

All of us have been in situations – at school, at work and even in our relationships – when things just got a little bit too close all the time. When we needed our own space. When we needed to breathe.

Although leadership is about serving others, it also means giving people the space and freedom that makes them comfortable.

Here are some reasons why great leaders know when to back-off.

It prevents resentment

In ten years as a hiring specialist I can say with confidence that there are two main reasons why most people move jobs that they are performing well in.

Firstly to grow. And secondly due to poor management.

There is nothing worse than having a boss standing over you all the time. Observing your every move. Sometimes even telling you what to do. In extreme cases even insisting you do nothing without checking with them first.

Great leaders understand that people need space. Although leaders often feel they need to take control when the pressure is on, in times of anxiety and stress we actually need MORE space. That’s why they understand even when stakes are high, sometimes it’s better to offer that suggestion just a little later on.

Great leaders back-off to keep relationships strong.

It encourages initiative

Most entrepreneurs that I work with usually have the same business problem.

The business has usually grown to a certain stage – sometimes a very successful stage – but whatever they try and do, they just can’t take it to the next level. The growth always starts to slow down. Why oh why they ask me, do the experienced people I’ve hired keep failing?

The problem is rarely the people hired. It’s usually the entrepreneur themselves.

Since the business is their baby, they’ve been used to controlling everything, making every major decision. But one person can only do so much. And if they hire people and effectively still try and overlook everything the business will never change.

Not backing-off destroys initiative.

Great leaders realise that for others to succeed, they need space to grow.

It encourages communication

The problem with being in another person’s face continuously is that after a while the other person realises that the only way to avoid the pressure is to say nothing at all.

To keep schtum. To keep cards close to the chest.

Many businesses that have extreme “office politics” have this problem. Micro-management has become so bad that employees hold information back from management. To avoid the pressure of constantly being monitored, questioned and even criticised.

And communication to a business is like blood to a body. When it stops flowing, the organisation dies.

Great leaders don’t consistently demand updates.

Their great teams speak up themselves.


We all want to help. But when the pressure is on, sometimes the most useful thing you can do is just let the other person be.

Hiring managers can gain much from those people who are keen to help but also know when to back-off when necessary.

Does your boss need to back-off?

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