Leadership and Value Add Disease

I came across this article from Boz discussing “value add disease” as it pertains to leadership, and it struck a chord. It’s certainly something I’m trying to keep top of mind as I step into a different leadership role at Zapier.

Defining “value add disease”:

Whether it be a manager or a reviewer or inspector, people in positions of authority feel a sense of responsibility. Like anyone else they have a job to do and they want to do it well. If work is presented to them and they make no changes they may fear they have shirked their responsibility. Too often they look for something – anything — to change so they can feel confident they did their jobs. I call this Value Add Disease.

Don’t make your team add “ducks” just to give you a way to put your mark on something. As Boz discusses towards the end, the best kind of leadership is often invisible. Your goal is to provide the coaching necessary for your team to operate at a high level and then largely get out of their way. That’s not shirking responsibility; it’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.

Consider instead that building teams that create good work without your help is precisely the kind of value you should be adding. In the times you do feel compelled to add value you should ask yourself whether something went wrong earlier that forced you to get involved at this point.

Churchill on Leading With Calm During a Crisis

The Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square, London.

I recently finished reading The Splendid and the Vile, a fantastic novel depicting Winston Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. While reading, I was struck by the gravity of the situation Churchill faced immediately upon stepping into office.

Hitler had begun his conquest across Europe conquering Holland and Belgium. France would fall soon afterwards. Throughout his first 12 months as Prime Minister, Germany would bomb the United Kingdom relentlessly, killing tens of thousands and destroying many cities. Leading a nation at any time would be a monumental task. Leading a nation through World War II, with the threat of constant bombing and imminent invasion is hard to fathom.

Throughout it all, across many public addresses, Churchill recognized the importance of maintaining a confident and positive front. It was perhaps one of his greatest traits, presenting a courageous attitude that made other people feel stronger and more hopeful.

He articulated the importance of this specifically in a message to all ministers:

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