It’s Not About Me (Or You)

There comes a point in the career of every leader when our performance is no longer determined by technical proficiency or the ability to manage tasks. The cruel irony is mastering these skills then results in promotion to roles in which performance is no longer dictated by technical ability and task management.

Said simpler: The skills we use to earn our first leadership roles are not the same skills required of us to be an effective leader.  This is a fundamental misalignment in a lot of systems.

While tasks can be managed, people require leadership.     

Moving up from the contributor level requires traits such as tenacity, learning ability, persistence and grit. These characteristics identify the top-performers within peer groups. When we succeed in the positioning exercise against our peers, we are rewarded with a formal leadership role. We move from the role of contributor to an emerging leader.

And then it happens…    

The skills that made us a top-performing contributor are no longer enough. New skills are required; skills to which we have had limited exposure to develop and have even less confidence utilizing. The leadership position we earned through hard work and technical knowledge is filled with expectations like enabling others, coordinating planning efforts, soliciting feedback, executing meetings, building meaningful relationships, establishing team culture and encouraging the heart of a team.

Wait…this is a big jump. I remember how I felt while making this transition: No one told me these were the things I needed to be good at. I’d never even been in a conversation where these skills were discussed.  None of this stuff was even in the brochure!

Without an intentional transition plan to being a leader, I relied on the skills I had mastered as a contributor to try and lead. It worked about as well as expected. We always got the work done; on time, under budget and at extremely high quality. This is definitely a testament to the character of the folks I worked with, as my approach to leadership at the time left them no better off. The hallmarks of my approach; fully centralized authority and transactional directives.

There was a “right way” and “wrong way” to perform each task and the emotional fatigue on the teams I led was evident. That said, I came by these behaviors honestly. They were the same behaviors that allowed me to succeed amongst peers as an individual contributor. How was I to know that my skills needed to expand and my behaviors needed to change in order to be an effective leader?

Ignorant to so much, I kept wondering what was it about MY accomplishments that people didn’t see? What did I have to do to get an executive seat? I mean, all these projects were delivered all on time, all under budget and at exceptional quality. The products were great, the service was great, the P&Ls exceeded all expectations. Why was I “stuck?”

Then, I got lucky. I joined an organization that took a very intentional approach to developing emerging leaders.  Through a combination of monthly workshops with other managers, individual coaching, plenty of reading and incredible mentor relationships, the pieces started to come together.

Participating in my first emerging leader program was exciting. I was motivated by the fact the organization I worked for was investing in me. If they were committed to my success as a leader, I was certainly committed to the success of the enterprise. Through their emerging leader program and others that followed, I learned a great deal and built life-long friendships along the way. The most important realization I carry with me every day.

The idea is that LEADERSHIP IS NOT ABOUT ME. Leadership is about helping other people identify and achieve THEIR purpose. I can’t imagine a more fortunate life than being connected with stories of other’s success.

Please join me in reaching out to an emerging leader today and see how they’re doing.

Onward and upward!

Chris

A note of gratitude for anyone reading who has been part of my journey: my family, teachers, mentors, coaches, fellow students, colleagues and players.  THANK YOU!  The gifts you have provided me can never be repaid, but I will do my best to pay them forward.   

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