“But the guy is brilliant.”
You hear that phrase every time you see a person who is amazing at what he does, but isn’t up to standard in how he leads others.
Given how common this is, how big of an impact can this have on an organization?
One manager has several direct reports, which usually make up a team. That team likely has close working relationships with several other teams. Together, those teams make up a sizable part of the organization.
So in perspective, one manager’s leadership can have a ripple effect on many people.
But even after understanding this, organizations have rarely put enough effort into cultivating the leadership skills of managers. These people are usually promoted to their positions because of their high performance, not because they have high potential as leaders. This creates a disparity between supply and demand.
If you take a look at this study, you’ll find that even the best organizations don’t spend as much as they should on emerging leaders. So if you’re in this position, it’s not your fault that you’re feeling lost. You get thrown into some manager training workshops, which are proven to be ineffective, and then you’re expected to be awesome at your job.
But not all hope is lost. The truth is that leaders are made. So if you are a high performer who now has to step up to the mantle of leadership, rest assured that you will get there, as long as you keep on reading.
A Prepared Mindset
There is no end to becoming a leader. This is a skill-set that gets tested every day, right from the moment you start acting like one. Once you realize this, the best thing for you to do is to observe what the results of your actions are and to learn from them.
That’s the difference between those who say they are leaders and those who actually are. Even after years of experience in leadership positions, you aren’t necessarily a great leader. There is always more to learn. But that only happens if you’re constantly looking for improvement.
For those who are just embarking on their leadership journey, this helps lighten the load a bit. No one is great at the beginning because this is a process that takes time. You will always keep improving, even if it doesn’t feel like it, but only if you have the humility to keep learning.
If you have this mindset from the start, then you can show how serious you are by seeking out mentorship and development opportunities as much as possible. Outside of trainings, there are people you can reach out to who have done your job. And every time you see a chance to stretch yourself just a bit outside of your confidence zone, do it.
You will also need to get your new team mentally prepared for your leadership. I address this in another blog post, so take a look there about how you can start your new working relationship on the right foot.
See What It’s Like To Work With Other Teams
One of the top four areas that leaders want to work on is perspective. An unique way of gaining some of that is temporarily rotating to another department to see how other parts and teams of the business operate.
Before you freak out, this does not have to be long rotation. Travis York, CEO of GYK Antler, implemented an “exec exchange” program where he switched places with the CEO of another company for one day. Aside from personnel or payroll related decisions, they each had the authority to make decisions in order to create as genuine an experience as possible.
The results were that both parties gained valuable insights to different work cultures, leadership styles and industries. They were able to bring those back to their teams and come up with new solutions they wouldn’t have before.
If you want to gain as much experience as possible, see if you can shadow other leaders or teams to see how they operate according to their function. If anything, learning more about how your organization operates can only benefit you.
Get A Coach
Compared to the usual learning curve of becoming a leader, which can take years, hiring a coach can develop your leadership style in mere months.
This is because with a coach, you set aside blocks of time to work through your real world leadership challenges. You’re constantly being challenged to grow and expand your perspective on what you will need to do to achieve your goals.
This accelerates your growth. And if you’re a high performer, this is especially true. No one can see their own blind spots. Many leaders go for years without realizing that they had certain behaviors that did more harm than good. If you’re a high performer who has a coach, you get to realize all this early on. Staying ahead of the game is why you got to where you are, right?
The new perspective you gain also gives you the know-how on being empathetic to others. Even if you are not a people person, you can still pick up the leadership skills that inspire others to commit to your vision. Remember, anyone can learn this.
What’s the end result? You become a better version of yourself, infused with the best of both worlds.
Your expertise deserves to be praised for the accomplishments it has gotten you. However you will reach a point where you need to pick up leadership skills to keep on advancing. What got you here won’t get you to the next level.
At the end of the day, you are the sole variable to your success. What are you doing to become the version of yourself that can achieve your goals? As a first step, I recommend actively observing the more experienced leaders around you. What are they doing that gets people to follow them? Let me know what you find out, especially if you’re curious on how to apply what you observe.
This is Mike X Huang, wishing you the best of luck.