By Fay Lawrence
When you are an expert in your field and you are called a Subject Matter Expert (SME), the probabilities of getting promoted, “if” you play your cards right are high. The problem resides in you getting promoted to become a team leader, a supervisor or a manager who is responsible for managing “humans.”
Once the celebration dies down and you are expected to perform as “the leader” of the team, department or organization without ever being in charge or managing people, this “promotion” becomes a challenge.
Don’t despair…I know you gave it a lot of thought; the position, the money and the responsibilities look glamorous, but the thought of leading “this team” appear to be a daunting one. The one thing to remember, is that leadership is not a “trait” that only the “chosen” have. Leadership is a behavior, a skill, an attitude and, like any skill, it can be learned and developed. Your advantage, is that you can learn while on the job.
I think of Moses, Jeremiah, Joshua and even Gideon, to name some great leaders in the Bible, who never believed they had it in them to lead the people of Israel. But, God had faith in them and helped them become good leaders step-by-step.
The more I work with leaders, the more I see that if you believe in yourself and follow “the steps,” you too can become the best leader you ever wanted to be. Leadership is a choice: Have you made the decision to become one?
Early in my career, I had female soldiers who would come to me for “mentoring.” In the beginning, I would panic, push it off and come up with excuses for why it was not a good fit, until I was given the opportunity to lead the most difficult pair I ever encountered. They didn’t like me and did all they could to sabotage my efforts, but I took the challenge head-on and learned to successfully lead them even though we didn’t like each other. We were a successful as a “team.”
As each left the organization, they came back to me to apologize. They told me they could not believe that I could work with them and still be fair. Although it was a very tough situation, I truly learned to treat people with dignity and respect, even when they disliked me. For me, leadership is about getting things done through others; it’s about influence and results with excellence. You don’t have to like them, they don’t have to like you but, together, we need to accomplish the mission, period.
I learned valuable lessons. I looked around me and came up with traits, behaviors and attitudes, I admired in my bosses. I only had a female boss, the rest, the commanders were all men. I learned something from each one. I looked at the gap between me and them then worked on improving myself. As a result, I was decorated multiple times for leading a team of brilliant employees to the Pentagon and later became one of the top leaders for a global organization, all because I believed I could do it and I learned from the best in my “industry.”
I want to share this tool with you. I share it with my coaching clients and I am sure it can help you too.
- Click Here to get the worksheet. Think of a leader, the best leader in your organization. Think about why this person is so respected. Why his people succeed? What makes her the best?
- Make a list of the behaviors, skills and attitudes this person display that makes her the best. Use the attached worksheet.
- Now, rate this person’s skills from 1 to 7 (one being needs help and 7 being masterful)
- Next, read the list again, now it’s your turn. With a different color pen, rate yourself based on the same behaviors, skills and attitudes.
- Now check out the gap? Analyze it? How far apart are you from her?
- Select one or two behaviors (max) you would like to work on and get moving to improve. I recommend that you select the behavior or the skill that will give you more leverage.
There are many “gurus” who talk about not making changes to your weaknesses and concentrate on your strength. I disagree to an extent. When you have a “fatal flaw” that can hurt the organization’s bottom line, you need to do something to transform that behavior or improve your skills to turn things around. You may not become masterful at the 7 points, but you can become a 5 or a 6, which is not bad at all.
If you need additional support or if you know any new leader who needs someone to hold her hand as she grows into her leadership role, please don’t hesitate in letting me know.