5 Shifts to Breakthrough as a Leader

Updated: Apr 20

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 wer