Last week I introduced the concept of Managership and talked about why we often shy away from the word manager because it’s not particularly sexy.
I would argue though that we can’t dismiss the manager role in our excitement to get to leadership.
I believe experience as a manager is an important part of our leadership journey and that we need to spend some time there, the amount of time is different for each person and what it looks like will vary greatly for each of us, but it is not something that can be skimmed over, if we fail to hone our skills at this level we may be setting ourselves up for failure as leaders.
This week I want to start to explore the steps on the leadership ladder in more detail. Its important to note here that not everyone wants to be a leader and that really is step one, deciding if leadership is for you, if it is , read on……
Are you in a role at work and feeling less than fulfilled?
You may be observing your manager making decisions you disagree with. You could be frustrated because you feel you don’t have enough perceived or actual power to get your ideas across the line. You may feel you deserve more acknowledgement or that your skills are wasted?
This is you learning that you have the potential to be a leader and that being a doer is simply not going to satisfy you into your future.
This can be unsettling as you come to the realisation that perhaps you need to move up the career ladder, stepping into your awesomeness and putting yourself on the line.
You may start to experience the fight or flight response, happily reciting all of the reasons why you can’t possibly be a leader.
You may start to think about all the things you can’t do, all of the skills you don’t have.
You might start to think about the things you will have to sacrifice, longer hours, difficult or political conversations, consequences of more responsibility if you fail?
This is all perfectly normal.
According to researchers people are more stressed when there is uncertainty than they are when there is a predictable negative consequence. In other words, if you think it might go wrong but you’re not sure, you will feel more stressed than if you know it will go wrong.
Could this explain why we focus on the negatives when making our decision? Providing ourselves with all the evidence that we need that this is a bad idea and that this will definitely go wrong rather than live with the stress of uncertainty, ignoring the fact it could go perfectly well?
The important Tipping Point, described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book of the same title, is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point”.
This can look very different for each of us.
For me it was the realisation that my happiness at work relied on the decisions of others, and I wanted to be involved in discussing those decisions.
For the sake of argument let’s describe our tipping point as the point at which you make the decision that you aren’t going to let your fear take over, that regardless of the perceived challenges ahead, you got this, you will be the leader you were born to be.
This can be experienced as a shift from fear to excitement. But being excited isn’t enough. This is the time to take action, strike while the iron is hot as my grandma used to say, action now whilst your motivation is high.
Warning – this is not the time to quit your job and apply to be the new CEO of Microsoft
The first thing any great leader needs to accept is that you have stuff to learn and you will continue to have stuff to learn.
Its time to consider that you have some unconscious incompetence.
The good news is you don’t have to give up work and head back to school but rather think about what information, knowledge and skills will benefit you and get you where you want to be.
What books do you need to start reading, who do you have in your network who can help you on your journey?
Visualise what being a successful leader looks like to you.
This is not the time to get bogged down in the detail, making the decision, visualising the future and setting some big picture plans are enough to get you started for now.
Fancy some homework before next week’s blog?
Spend some time this week:
What does it mean to you to be a leader? What will you look like, how will you talk, how will you act?
Think about leaders you know and admire, what characteristics do they have that you can model?
What information and skills so you need? Pick three books on leadership to start you on your journey.
Who in your network do you admire who you could talk to about your decision? Do you have a mentor or is there someone who could mentor you? Who can you attract into your network?
Have a great week and next week I will explore the doing stage on the leadership ladder.