If you’re aspiring to be a leader or you’re currently a leader, sometimes it’s worth knowing what level you’re at and what should be your focus.
The problem with many career trajectories can be that sometimes people are either operating too low or too high for the level they’re actually at.
Use this if you want to calibrate where you should be operating , what your focus should be, and what problem you should be trying to solve so that you can be more effective in your role.
I’m going to talk about the levels of leadership, the focus of each role, and the problem with each role, and how the transitions between these roles sometimes work.
For many people, before they become a leader, they’re an individual contributor.
The focus when you’re an individual contributor is your own performance.
The problem when you’re an individual contributor is that you have no leverage. It’s just you!
Many people aspire as they get really good at their work, to teach others to do the work and to manage the work. You move up the ladder and you start to manage people who did what you did.
People who are able to make the shift into management, and this is a really important jump, they have to change their mindset.
Instead of the focus being their own performance, they now have to think “How do I lift team performance?” The problem that often occurs with people have who don’t make this jump successfully, is that they can’t let go of their need to do the work and they can’t teach others how to do it the way they did it. If they can’t let go of it, then they’re not a very successful manager.
The next step is the jump up from a frontline manager. So you’ve been really good at getting output from other people. Then you move up in the organisation – You start leading the people who are leading the frontline people. The jump here is the jump from managing directly the people who are doing the work, into influence. You can’t actually directly impact the frontline anymore. All you can do is influence the people who are influencing the managers of the people who are actually doing the work.
Problems occur here when people can’t make the shift and instead of starting to coach more (asking questions and helping managers) they stay directing or telling people what to do. If they’re directing or telling people what to do, then every problem gets solved by them and them alone, and eventually they’ll burn out.
The final shift up is when you become either an owner or on the leadership team and you start leading the organisation. The focus here is actually about the future. Building a sustainable model that delivers results in the present but also delivers results in the future. The biggest problem at this level is that when people make this transition, they can’t get the balance right between their individual KPI’s and delivering business as usual work, and working on the strategy and the future of the organisation. If they spend too much time on BAU, then they’re not going to be useful to the organisation – they’re not coming up with ideas for the future.
Here’s the thing for you, here’s the “So what?”
The “So what” is this:
Think about what level you’re operating at at the moment and write that down.
Then think about the level that you aspire to. Is it leader of leaders? Is it leading the organisation? Is it just frontline manager?
Thinking about the level you’re at currently and the level you aspire to, what problem do you need to solve to make the jump?
Coaching is a brilliant solution to helping people make those jumps, to change their mindset and to change their thinking to be able to operate at different levels… and that’s a lot of the work we do.
I hope this has been helpful for you to level up. I’ll talk to you next time on The Reason & The Road.