You’re not that important.

People sitting around a table in a business meeting.

You’re not that important.

This has been a hard lesson to learn over my years in leadership. It’s easy to say you are OK stepping away, and much harder to do.  Sure, I’ve read the leadership books, I’ve done some things to help our team and leadership carry on without me. What I realized though, is that I’ve never really allowed the team to step up without my being there, lurking in the background “just in case”.

This year changed all of that for me.

In July of 2022, my Father-in-Law was diagnosed with two forms of rare, untreatable cancer. We knew from the start, that his time with us was limited. My family and I made the easy decision to both live in full support of him through this journey, to help him physically and mentally, and also to fully support each other as we prepared for the loss of someone so important to our lives.

Working with our leadership and HR (I’m fortunate to work in a compassionate environment!), I had planned to step away as needed. Whether that was for my Father-in-Law’s health needs, to keep our household running, or for my own mental and physical health needs, there were times when I would need to be unavailable. And there would be no time, or mental capacity, to be there “just in case”.

It was difficult initially. I wanted to be there to help our team, but it wasn’t possible. Each time I returned, with the team unscathed, I realized that the stories I told myself weren’t about the team not being able to continue without me, but fear about how I would show folks that I was irrelevant. If the team could work without me, then what was I there for?

I came to an understanding that it was because of the communication and team building that I profess are so necessary, that makes me an important part of the team. It’s that I ensure our teams and leadership have what they need to thrive, without me, that makes me valuable. It’s the trust that I have in our team and their skill, and their reciprocal trust in me, that make us strong and resilient.

Over time it has become easier to step away, and be fully disconnected. 

On January 2nd, we lost my Father-in-Law. He went peacefully at his home with family by his side. I’ve learned a lot over these six months not only about him, but also about me. About resilience, bravery, and trust. About how to not only survive, but also thrive, in the face of adversity.

I’ve also learned that I can step away, fully disconnect, and be important where I need to be, for those that need me the most.