Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Are you ready to lead leaders

Your first leadership role likely moved you from a group of peers on the shop floor or other sales associates and into the role of leading a small group.  For the most part this was a position in which you supervised or managed a team by using the skill sets and knowledge that made you effective when you were a team member, not their team leader.

Continued success in this new role allowed you to broaden the scope of your responsibilities.  Generally speaking this meant you were able to juggle more balls at the same time as opposed to learning a new trick.  There is nothing wrong with this definition of your abilities because it is more than most people ever accomplish or even want to attempt.

The bigger test comes when you are expected to lead other leaders as this presents an entirely new and different challenge.  Whereas the first role meant directing others who, for the most part, had no aspiration to leadership, the position of leading other leaders requires you to work with a group of alpha personalities, some of whom aspired to the role you now hold.

I want to look at these challenges in the next 2 or 3 blogs as it is critically important that you understand and appropriate some facts of this leadership responsibility.

 1.  It is not unusual to feel somewhat overwhelmed in the initial stages.  This is normal and natural unless you have held similar roles in other employment situations.  But rather than doubt your abilities, keep this touchstone close by; others have the confidence that you can do the job because they appointed you.  Sometimes it is the experience and wisdom of others who recognize latent potential long before we see it in ourselves.  So continue to work in the same manner of confident expectation that characterized your prior position.  It is a source of strength that got you to where you are now and it is something that you should build on rather than distrust.

2.  Trust and respect the competencies of your leadership staff.  While they may have been passed over for the role that you have, the same decision maker who has elevated you also chose the keep them in their positions. There must be good reasons for their success, so identify their strengths and use them to the mutual advantage of the team.  Don't hesitate to ask your leader what they see in these individuals - strengths and weaknesses - as this will shorten the learning curve and help to provide you perspective (up and down...ask me if you don't understand).

3.  In an earlier posting I spoke about the need to create an environment in which failure is an acceptable option as long as the failure is not fatal to the business and provided that the value of that which is learned exceeds the cost of the failure.  However it is important to recognize that the tolerance for failure decreases exponentially as you move up the ladder. The anticipation is that your skills and experience - and those of your leadership team - should produce more well considered decisions that are not experiments to see what happens but rather efforts which confirm expectations.  Accordingly, as the leader of leaders, this truth must be communicated in a much more sophisticated manner but one in which calculated risk taking is still encouraged as that is often what differentiates the best companies from the rest of the pack.

Leadership is not for everyone.  Leading leaders is for fewer still.  But when you do it right, the level of satisfaction makes all the efforts worthwhile.  Next time I will offer more insights to help you plot your route to success.


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