Updated: Apr 20, 2022
A Bumpy Road
The path to breakthrough as a leader is not smooth. Whether moving into your very first leadership role or moving into a new level of leadership, there are typically many bumps along the road.
Whilst everyone's journey down that road is different, there are some common stories that seem to be told time and time again.
You may be experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. Euphoric highs from finally being recognised for your skills and prowess. You have the promotion you feel you deserved. Through to the thud of anxiety when you discover that no one has shown you what it means to be a leader.
New leaders often find leadership to be more challenging than they first expected. You have been exceptionally good at what you do (your chosen craft). This is why you were identified as having leadership potential in the first place. The problem is that being great at the skills of your profession does not automatically mean that you will have the skillset and mindset needed to be a leader of people. The things that got you here may not serve you well in your new role. In some cases they may even hold you back. You soon discover that human beings are complex creatures. Far more complex than the comfort zone of the tools of your trade.
Then comes the deluge of firsts. First time managing conflict in your team; First time having a team member go through difficult times; First time presenting to your boss' boss. Every day brings new problems and you start to question whether you even want to be a leader.
You may find yourself working long hours. Returning to the relative comfort of your old job in addition to trying to master your new role. Trying to "prove" yourself. Frustration starts to kick in. It starts impacting you personally and may start impacting your home life and relationships too.
To compound all of this, you may find that you can't speak up. You feel that raising your hand and asking for help is a sign of weakness. A form of validation that you never deserved the promotion and new role in the first place. To get beyond all of this you will need to make 5 shifts to break through as a leader.
Shift #1 - Commit to your values
People want to work for leaders that have purpose and meaning and live by their values and beliefs. Great leaders are able to articulate that purpose and give people meaning to the work they do. They attract and retain talented people around them that believe in that purpose and believe the same things they believe. They build trust by ensuring all of their actions and decisions are congruent with their values.
Shift #2 - Conquer your anxiety
The more I study leadership the more I discover people are letting limiting beliefs and anxieties get in their way. Imposter syndrome is far more prevalent than one would imagine. People second-guessing themselves thinking they are not enough. The secret sauce here is that you do not need to know all the answers. People are very receptive to leaders who are open and humble about where they are in their journey. People respect when a leader is open and vulnerable about their weaknesses whilst taking pride and owning their strengths.
Shift #3 - The Influential Mindset
Many emerging leaders form strongly held views that a leader's job is to "tell" people what to do and how to do it. This can be a source of that early frustration. Asking yourself "why aren't people just doing what I tell them to do?". William Glasser's Choice Theory gives a strong indication of the issue here. Glasser argues that people have 5 fundamental needs, Survival; Love & Belonging; Power; Fun; and Freedom. These needs lead to all kinds of phenomena including social conformance, where the need to belong may outweigh their need to be right. The need for Freedom includes the Freedom of Choice (the feeling that they are in control of the steering wheel of their life) and Freedom from Oppression. With these overriding needs, even if someone does do what you "tell" them, they want to feel that they made an individual and conscious choice to do so.
So, how do we break this chain? Great leaders soon learn to shift to an Influential Mindset. They realise they will achieve much greater results by inspiring people into meaningful action because they "want" to do it, not because they were "told". When people feel inspired by the purpose and meaning of their work, and that they made their own individual choice to follow, they will achieve things beyond the imagination of the leader. When they feel like they matter, they will go above and beyond what the leader may have otherwise "told" them to do.
Shift #4 - Multiply Your Impact
When a leader gets beyond the need to "prove themselves" they soon learn the secret to their success is through the people around them. It may seem counterintuitive to some, but the secret to getting more done and having more impact is to DO LESS. We are often told we should "lead from the front" and to "set an example" and there are certainly examples where this is true. However, this can limit your ability to scale your impact. Every time a leader "steps up" and gets "hands on" they are missing a development opportunity for one of their team members. The more time you invest in your team, the more they grow. The more opportunities for growth you give them, the more they grow. The more they grow, the greater your impact.
This is best summed up by my favourite quote, an African Proverb, "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together"
Shift #5 - Invest in Coaching
One of the greatest assets any leader can have is self-awareness. To borrow words from the amazing Stephen Shedletzy, the problem is that "it is hard to read the label on the jar from the inside". Professional coaching from a certified coach accelerates you on a journey of self-discovery. You begin to discover yourself as a leader; develop a learning mindset; and discover new perspectives and new ways of thinking. Behind every great leader is a coach that has helped them on that journey of self-discovery and self-awareness as a leader.
Like to know more? - New Webinar Series Coming Soon
I hope this article has piqued your interest to know more about the shifts that you need to make to become a high performance leader. If you would like to know more, please join us for an upcoming series of webinars where we will dig deeper into each of these shifts.
Gateway to High Performance Leadership
We are also currently taking applications for our next cohort of our flagship program, The Gateway to High Performance Leadership.
If you would like to participate in either the webinar or enquire about The Gateway to High Performance Leadership please contact us at The Leadership Project by writing to Joan Gozon (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Eirene Vidanes (email@example.com)