As the dad of three young kids, I’ve read quite a few children’s books recently. One of my family’s favorites is a story by Marilyn Sadler called It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny.
It’s the tale of P.J. Funnybunny, who just doesn’t like being a rabbit. After all, his mom makes him eat cooked carrots every day, he’s got far too many brothers and sisters, and whenever he looks in the mirror he’s bothered because his ears are so big. One day, P.J. decides to leave home to try being something else.
He first wants to be a bear. But when the bears hibernate for the winter, P.J. can’t sleep and he gets bored. So he decides instead to be a bird. P.J. likes being a bird until he tries to fly, which doesn’t turn out so well. So P.J. next goes to live with beavers. All beavers like to do, though, is work and P.J. doesn’t like to work at all. P.J. then moves in with the moose, but P.J. can’t make good moose calls.
Undeterred, P.J. lives next with possums, who enjoy hanging upside down. The problem for P.J. is that hanging upside down gives him a headache. Finally, P.J. tries to live with skunks, which is, of course, a stinky idea.
After all this, P.J. decides what he really wants to be is a bunny again, so he hurries home. That night, P.J. doesn’t complain about eating cooked carrots or playing with his brothers and sisters. And he doesn’t even mind that his ears are so big. P.J. is just happy that everyone can see – including himself – that he’s a bunny.
Over the last year, I’ve probably read this book 30 times. I love it because it drives home a lesson that’s important for all leaders to remember: be you and not someone else. Too often, I feel, leaders try to take on different roles because that’s simply what the job demands. Don’t fall down this rabbit hole. Businesspeople are better served focusing on their strengths and delegating certain responsibilities to others. For example, if you’re really good at selling, you should be dedicating most of your work day to sales. If you’re an awesome networker, set up your business so you can funnel leads to someone else to do the selling.
"Don’t get distracted from the destiny your talents offer you." — Dave Vagnoni
Don’t look at your weak spots as faults. The best leaders are honest about their abilities and don’t pretend to be practiced at a thousand things. Employees respect leaders who are authentic and even a bit vulnerable.
Now this isn’t to say you should perpetually stay inside your comfort zone, perched on your throne while your minions scurry about carrying out your orders. I once had a boss who over-delegated and earned the reputation of a do-nothing pylon. Don’t be like her. Instead, be present and accountable in the daily game just like you ask employees to be. And, by all means, go ahead and strive to be a lifelong learner, just don’t get distracted from the destiny your talents offer you.
It’s never made sense to me to have employees – leaders or not – be tasked with jobs they’re not a fit for. You’d never hire an accountant to build your website, so why would you think you could capably run an Instagram account even though you have no idea what a filter is?
By the way, if you find you’re already overwhelmed wearing too many hats, don’t despair. Like P.J., you can hurry home and be you again. Do it now before you’re faced with the skunks.
Our Take is a series of unfiltered and unabashed opinions on everything business.