First a quote: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” — Max De Pree, Former CEO, Herman Miller, Inc.; Author
Transitioning into a leadership role often requires a significant, and sometimes difficult, change in our mental models. One might almost call it a mental transformation. How we think about others, ourselves, our roles and responsibilities must change; or at least in my opinion, should.
Early in our careers, we are often recognized, rewarded, and sometimes even promoted because of our personal skill sets and individual abilities to “get stuff done”, to make things happen, and to deliver results. In many ways, we become what I have described as “super-doers”. We’re often rewarded for being hard workers; we are recognized for our individual efforts and accomplishments.
Most organizations love super-doers! Who doesn’t appreciate hard-working people who consistently deliver results day after day, month after month? Don’t get me wrong, organizations need people who deliver results. This will never change. And, please know I am not advocating for less focus on delivering results. Results will always be important. What I am suggesting however, is that how we get those results needs to change if our career goals include taking on leadership responsibilities. At some point, those same “super-doer” qualities that served us well early in our careers, may become a liability, or even a “glass ceiling” of sorts, later in our careers.
Transitioning into leadership from more tactical roles and responsibilities requires a conscientious and deliberate shift in mindset, focus and priorities in many important areas. How leaders spend their time, and what gets their attention, must change. For many of us, myself included, this can be a difficult transition.
Following are a few key mental transitions leaders must consider:
- Results matter, not just today, but in the future as well. Leaders must deliver results today, AND simultaneously prepare their department, function or business for the future. While leaders must obviously address today’s challenges and deliver results in the present, they must also be more future-focused. Setting aside time to proactively look further down the path, anticipating future needs, problems, challenges and opportunities. This requires the discipline to think more strategically, proactively and be far less reactionary than earlier in their career. Their focus should increasingly be on “strategic fire prevention”, not reactive day-to-day “firefighting”.
- Structure, systems and processes are the responsibility of leadership! Leaders must be more focused on the continual improvement of organizational structures, systems and processes. When we ask talented and motivated people to work with tools, systems and processes that are less than ideal, perhaps even antiquated, we get mediocre results at best. It has been my observation that our employees and teams are frequently blamed for poor organizational results. When managers blame their people for poor performance, it relieves those managers of their own personal responsibilities for repairing and/or replacing dysfunctional systems and processes. What processes need to be updated in your area of responsibility? Have you asked your team what is getting in their way of producing better results?
- Culture matters! Leaders must now pay attention to, and shape, the culture of their department, function or business. Someone once said, “Organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast” (frequently attributed to Peter Drucker but has never been confirmed). The point; it doesn’t matter how grand your strategy, if your organizational culture doesn’t support it, or worse yet, fights that grand strategy. Often, organizational culture is the reason many change efforts fail or fall short of expectations.
- People Matter! When a person becomes more concerned about the well-being of others, over their own personal needs, you know they have what it takes to be a leader. Leaders know they have performed their job well if the department, function or organization is positioned for success long after their departure. True leaders value servant leadership as a mental model. Their role is to serve others, to remove barriers, to provide resources and to champion the success of others. I was fortunate to begin my career with a company where managers were taught this concept; they called it the “First Assistant” Jack Welch said it this way, “Before you become a leader, success is about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
Click here to read: Grow Your people, Grow Your Business, July 22, 2018
Being a “super-doer” can be a very good thing and serves most of us well early in our careers. However, if we don’t make the required mental shifts that come with leadership responsibilities, that same “super-doer” quality will likely become a glass ceiling. Getting results will always be important, getting results with, and through, others is a critical function of leadership.
“When you were made a leader, you weren’t given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others!” —Jack Welch
“I don’t want my life to be defined by what is etched on a tombstone. I want it to be defined by what is etched in the lives and hearts of those I’ve touched.” ― Steve Maraboli
How will you lead differently, or better, this coming week?
All the best! Give your best! Do your best! Be your best! Have a great week!!
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