Why being too responsible can harm your business

Entrepreneurs should avoid taking ownership of their team members’ problems and tasks

A photo of multi-ethnic businesswomen discussing. Arab Emirati women are in traditional abaya clothes and Caucasian female is in western dress. Professionals are at conference table, in brightly lit modern office discussing business cooperation. Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
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When a business leader is overburdened, their team can be negatively affected.

Taking responsibility and catering to others’ needs, especially those around you, is an indicator of strong leadership in Arab culture.

A great leader, in fact, is one who anticipates the needs of others and addresses them before they ask.

When I first ventured into entrepreneurship, I was advised to always go the extra mile, to anticipate my team members’ needs and to treat them the way I would treat my family.

I love this about our culture — how we are always encouraged to think of others when we think of ourselves, to think of the overall good and to support our community.

But as important as it is to think of others, we shouldn’t forget to address our personal needs, especially when it comes to managing a business.

Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as too much responsibility.

Business leaders can become too responsible by taking ownership of their team members’ problems and tasks.

For example, one of my business acquaintances would work overtime and on her personal holidays because she felt guilty that her new team member may be overloaded.

This situation ended up taking so much of her time that she couldn’t focus on her own responsibilities: leading a business and thinking of its long-term strategy.

It wasn’t until she noticed how she fell behind on achieving her goals and started to feel fatigued that she decided to delegate this task to other team members.

Surely, being too responsible may not be the greatest risk a business owner would face.

However, when a business leader is overburdened, then their teams, as well as their business, are negatively affected.

Overly responsible leaders can feel overwhelmed and exhausted, leading to burnout.

When I first ventured into entrepreneurship, I was a one-woman team. This meant that I did everything from A-Z.

With profit came more responsibilities and more goals to achieve, which meant that I needed to hire new team members.

We were overloaded with tasks and my team members were also overwhelmed at times.

There were many times when I stayed behind to provide emotional support and guidance if needed.

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Though I have a business partner who was in charge of doing that and I could go home and rest and work on my tasks, I felt guilty and couldn’t leave my team behind.

How do you know if you are in a similar situation?

Ask yourself: are you too focused on the needs of your team members and clients that you neglect your own needs?

Do you micromanage your team and are too focused on the details of your business? If so, these are signs that you are too responsible.

So, how can the situation be salvaged?

When I realised that I was too responsible and this was hurting my business, I took a step back.

This meant that I went back to assess my responsibilities at work. I learnt to delegate responsibilities more and to not forget myself in the process.

While it’s important to be hands-on, it’s also important to let others help you with carrying the weight of the responsibility.

No matter how good you think you are, you can’t do it all.

As my mother says: “You’re not Superman. You can’t do it all.”

Being responsible is an essential trait for business leaders, but don’t neglect your needs as you address the needs of your team members, clients and your business.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi.

Updated: November 14, 2022, 4:00 AM
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