4.9 Leadership Transitions- Have You Reached One?
EGL Newsletter Volume 4.9
During our working years there are many rites of passage that we tend to achieve, particularly when working in the corporate environment. The traditional ladder of success has been well defined over the years, in which people steadfastly progress in areas of increasing responsibility throughout their career.
Much training is giving to all of us in these roles, and most of it centers around things like effective management through delegation, prioritization, and time management. We also cover things like financials, strategic planning, and other important areas for running the business. However, we tend to not get a lot of training in the areas that support these transitions of who we are, as opposed to what we do.
One of the earliest and most important transitions for all of us, whether we own our business or work in the largest of corporations, is when me make the transition from an individual contributor to manager of the business. This can be expressed in a number of ways, for example, from working in the business to working on the business. This is a significant shift in values. It requires one to actually value the work of managing the business more than they once valued the work of doing the business. From there they must create time and energy commitments in new directions. It also requires a letting go of technical competencies that have made them successful to date, and opens the door to let others succeed using those same competencies. This value shift continues throughout the progression of a leader, as with each passage, a different layer of leadership and skill development is required. One key to knowing that a person has NOT passed this point is to hear the expression “get to doing real work”. Once past this transition, the leader realizes that their unique contribution is the capacity of the system to do work, not the work itself.
Another shift that occurs a bit later in career development is the transition of focus from inside your system to outside your system. At the higher executive levels, people are truly working across businesses, in the communities, and often with government agencies. It is not unusual for more that 50% of a top executive’s time to be spent working outside of their organization. There is another significant value shift here, as you have to be able to hold the idea of success in many areas besides your own business. It requires that we lose the singular definition of success of your company and begin working for the much larger win/win. It also necessitates being able to let go of the tactical work of the organization and allow others to take care of the processes that ensure business delivery. A key to identify this transition is to look at your schedule and time distribution. How are you dividing your time? What service do you provide outside your organization? What service do you provide inside?
Probably one of the most profound shifts occurs when we move from having direct delivery responsibility, whether as an individual contributor or leading a function, to having to work through influence. This occurs when we move into positions of leading leaders or leading multiple businesses. You must learn to value the difference in styles of different leaders, and celebrate other people’s success. In this position, you tend to get much less recognition for the direct success of the individual businesses, and it is crucial that the people more closely associated with it are recognized for what they contribute. On the other side of leading through influence, you must show your value contribution to those you lead, through service to their individual and business success. Remember, it is always about adding value, wherever you are in the journey.
There are many transitions that we undergo through our careers. One certainty is that you will progressively need to rely on your emotional intelligence skills. The more boundaries you cross, whether they are organization layers or geopolitical borders, the more you lead through a basic connection with people. It all comes down to connecting people’s hearts and mind with the overall vision of the business. This is done through your presence and ability to inspire others.