So you are ready for leadership. You are one of the top individual performers in your organization. You have been selected as an “Emerging Leader” (whatever that means…) and your stock is on the rise. You might think the company might as well just hand over the keys to the company because you are poised for greatness.
With all those great things they told you about your potential and aptitude, what could possibly go wrong? And yet here you sit six months later dejected and depressed because you have the lowest performing team in the organization and you are the one being blamed for what was expected to be a brilliant turnaround by an up and coming star. What happened here or in similar scenarios where a top performer fails as a leader?
“What happened” is that the leader didn’t change with the role….all of those things that made them a great individual performer — competitiveness, love of the spotlight and thinking they had all the answers — undercut any trust or cohesion inherited by the team. It didn’t have to turn out this way — successful independent contributors can succeed as leaders if they change the way they think about the role and adjust your work values, skills and time application in what they do. In the words of Marshall Goldsmith, “what got you here won’t get you there.”
There are three key steps that new leaders need to make happen in their transition to new roles: 1) change your work values around what is important, 2) develop and grow direct reports, and 3) “claim” their leadership role.
Adjust your work values
The first and most important step is to change the new leader’s work values because the things we value are the things we do. Particularly in that first transition from individual contributor to leader of others, group and team success needs to supersede personal recognition and achievement. If this values transition cannot be made, any further success of the team will be significantly limited.
Coach direct reports
Organizations are dynamic, living organisms that need to develop and grow to meet the demands and needs of their environments. As a leader, consider not only immediate success but success into the future. The ability to develop and grow teams that perform effectively is the first real indication of a leader’s success. Grow direct reports by coaching them every day.
Claim the leadership role
Finally, just being assigned the role of “leader” is not enough. Leadership is active participation in developing others and living the values of the organization. “Because I said so” is not a long term effective leadership strategy. Demonstrate you are “claiming” your role in the organization by striving to become better at doing the things that are important at your level.