Be a cog, just not a big one!
Cogs are like wheels with teeth. They can be used for turning corners and making things turn in different ways. Cogs also turn at different speeds. Small cogs turn quickly and big cogs turn slowly, as with wheels.
Leaders are really like cogs. We put the teeth into plans, projects and initiatives to get traction and move things forward. But being a cog becomes a problem for leaders when we get too big, when too much relies on us. Big cogs turn slowly and that slowness can impede progress.
A couple of questions I have learned to ask myself repeatedly are “Am I holding up progress?” “Am I frustrating staff because they are waiting on a decision from me.” Too often my answer to these questions is YES. I have allowed myself to be the big cog that is slowing down progress. Too much stuff has to pass through me and I can’t possibly keep up with it all. When I answer this question affirmatively, I MUST pull myself back and reconfigure my leadership. Why am I a big cog? Has the organization changed and grown and I need to implement new systems and structures for communication? Have I not empowered my leaders effectively? What habits do I need to break in order for the team to work more effectively? Do I just like the feeling of being needed and so I’ve allowed “big cog syndrome” to creep into our culture? (Yuck, that question sucks and most often it’s the most true.)
As a leader, if I continue to be the big cog, I will sabotage the organization. It’s only a matter of time.
So leaders, what kind of cog are you?