Teamwork or Fantasy League?

For a talented few, leadership is a trait that comes naturally, and it’s seemingly effortless for them to bring a team together, distill their best traits, and scale to success.

For most others, leadership is a skill developed over time, with a very difficult lesson to learn: The way to win is by hiring great people, giving them clear direction — and getting the heck out of the way. Sadly, what a lot of leadership looks like: a bunch of people waiting for instructions.

We like to call this the “fantasy league of leadership.” 

In case you’re not familiar with fantasy sports, it’s essentially when you craft a pretend team of real-life players and pretend to lead them to victory, when you didn’t even play a part in that. It just feels like you did. It’s also a great formula for you to be exhausted, and that’s not what I want for your life.

Here’s what that might look like in a business setting: You decide to launch a company. You pull together a talented team of people who have all the skills required to make this a hit. They’re excited to get started, so you kick things off, have a few calls or meetings, and it seems things are moving along splendidly. However, after a short time you might notice communication and progress seem to be stalled, and start to wonder if these people aren’t as talented as you initially thought. Why aren’t things getting done? What’s the malfunction? You feel exhausted and depleted, and start to point fingers at the areas and people that seem to be stuck.

The real problem, however, is that you’re pointing at the wrong thing. 

Since we’re in the realm of sports, imagine you’re wearing a great big foam finger. Now point that thing at yourself instead of your team members, because I’ll let you in on a little secret: If things aren’t moving forward, you might want to check on the way you’ve set things up with your “team.”

It’s a familiar trap for founders to create a dynamic where the team is awaiting your instructions. If you’re a perfectionist, or hey, a megalomaniac, that means you are the bottleneck. Your team is not empowered to act on behalf of you and the best interests of the company. This leads to another critical question: Do you trust them to do that?

If not, it’s time to shift both your mindset and behavior (or team, if you really feel like you can’t trust them). 

Reminder: The most important thing you can do is hire great people, provide some direction with clear communication — and get out of the way.

My friend Jackie Summers, founder of Sorel Liqueur, follows the 80% rule with his team: He tells them to come to him when a project is 80% finished so he doesn’t create a bottleneck. (His LinkedIn is worth following, by the way, because his nuggets of wisdom are a whole management course.)

As the person with the vision who has created The Thing, it is almost irresistible to refrain from interfering, so make sure you focus on the right things. Or, as Jackie says: “Successful companies are led by founders who understand their role as a community organizer.” 

Sometimes that also feels like professional cat herder, but humans gonna human. Your job is to lead them. And look, you don’t have to have all the answers — not as a leader, founder, CEO, troop leader, team captain, or anything else. 

The best leaders look to their people to provide breakthrough ideas, and listen for ways to bring those ideas to life. 

In order to do that, you have to stop thinking you need or have all the answers. Life and work is an act of creation. Teamwork makes that infinitely better. So no more fantasy football – leverage the knowledge and talent of the people around you effectively and watch what happens. You will feel rejuvenated instead of perpetually exhausted, and lifted by the talent and brilliance of the people you have around you. Then you can take Sundays off to do whatever you damn well please.


Self-Care Sunday is devoted to you, with advice, insights, and tools to create true self-care, which goes beyond a home spa day. Not that there’s anything wrong with a home spa day. We’re in the bubble bath typing this right now.

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