You Want to Lead, Now What?
You want to be a manager! They want to promote you! Now what?
Being a first-time leader, and a first-line leader, can be an exciting and scary place when one takes the next step in a corporate career setting.
Many companies and organizations promote individual contributors internally, and once they arrive at their new role, leave them to their own devices, managing others, managing KPIs, managing administrative deliverables, and, um, managing to stay in control. Oh, and all while usually making less than they did before they were promoted. For sales professionals, the road to on-target earnings (OTE) is harder and pay doesn’t measure up; for technical and administrative professionals, they work longer hours and carry more stress and anxiety so the few extra bucks get used up quickly. It’s…a labor of love?
OK, now that I’ve served up the salt, how about the sugar?
Elevating to a leadership role can be exhilarating when approached with the proper mindset. This exhilaration can come from two directions. Externally, it’s the opportunity to serve others, see them excel, and even be promoted beyond you. Yes I just said that. Giving others a sense of fulfillment and recognition of their role in the organization’s successes is pretty awesome. Internally, exhilaration comes from the feeling of accomplishment: you’ve made it because they thought you were worthy of the role. Others now look to you for your guidance, wisdom, clarity, compassion and creativity. Cautionary areas here lie in the overuse and abuse of power over others’ lives, resulting in a sense of control that can be dangerous and certainly unethical. Tread lightly with all that power.
So how do you know if leadership is right for you? It begins with you, not your superiors. Here’s a simple approach to determine if this is your next move, and if so, will you be any good at it?
- Create a list of your core values. Not ALL your values! Though it’s great to know them and a fun exercise to see what you stand for, living by 57 values daily is probably not happening. What you are looking for is a core group that governs most of your daily activity and behavior. Write down these 5-10 and take stock in them. This is important. We will come back to them shortly.
- Now, write out your idea of the leadership role you are seeking or being asked to fill. Define both the requirements and the description just like you would see in a job posting.
- Next, let’s get those core values back into play. Reconcile all of the items in both the requirements and description to your core values list. When an item doesn’t match up, eliminate it. Just redline it and keep going until all of the items have been considered against your core values.
- Okay, you’re doing great! Let’s review what the job looks like now that your core values have been taken into account. Are you still interested in being a manager? If yes, let’s move to #5!
- Retrieve the actual job description and requirements that your organization has determined for the role and compare them with what you want the position to look like based on who you are and how you are built. Does it match? Now take the outlier items and reconcile those against your core values. Which ones brush up against one or more? Since you cannot remove them as the company has determined they are part of this role, can you live with these outlier items? If not, stop and return to your current role until one emerges that meets you and how you are built.
Why is this important? Because for each part of your new role that conflicts with one or more of your core values, you will operate in a frustrating and stressful way. There’s no real coming back from it. Venturing forward, culture, process and expectations will always connect with you poorly.
Now add in the final component(s) — who is your boss? How does he or she match up with your core values? Ask them what theirs are and how they hold on to them while working in their role. How they answer and not answer will give you a look at what life will be like when you move into a leadership role. How different it will be from when you are at least two steps away as an individual contributor. A glimpse into the future is truly worth this part of the process. It is also good to understand how your boss interacts with their boss. This can shed light on how they are expected to operate and work within the culture of the organization. (This is advanced player level and it’s worth it to be curious about the next level or levels up, trust me. When an end-of-quarter reactive edict is announced, you will know what you got yourself into ahead of time)
Leaders get a lot of pressure from their leaders in ways subtle and not so subtle. Becoming a leader of leaders is a whole different perspective and frankly, blog. Let’s just stick to you “newbies” for a moment.
When all is said and done, leadership is still an amazing experience. Some take to it and it’s where they are supposed to be. Others try it out and find it doesn’t connect with their personality, desires and goals. The only wrong answer here is taking the position because you think life gets easier when you have all of these people doing stuff for you. That you think you can do less work and hide from performance, blaming others when it’s really your disconnect from what a successful leadership role requires that’s to blame.
I’ve come and gone from leadership roles throughout my career. Each new step up the org chart brings new challenges and rewards. Some have gone well, others not so much. Eventually, I became my own leader of one. Remember, regardless of what you decide, we are all leaders from within. So be the leader you want to be by checking in with your “leader within” right now. They will guide you to whether or not this is a fit for you. And remember, the view only changes for the lead hippo…
“Hello curious human. If you’ve made it this far, then curiosity and awareness are two of your superpowers. Do you have the COURAGE to go to the next level? Consider the wild idea of investing in you! New programs are available! Why wait any longer?!? Here’s a link to start creating that discussion right now!”
Be big. Be cool. Be hippo.
Ready to get started?