In fall of 2010, I was interviewed by an Arizona Republic reporter for an article on how to best position yourself to move from being an individual contributor to becoming a manager. As I prepared for the interview, I began to reflect on the question of what differentiates successful leaders from struggling managers. Among the several factors I could identify, one loomed larger than any of the others – your MOTIVATION for wanting to become a leader will make all the difference in the level of success you will have.
Many people believe that becoming a manager is the next best step because of the increased pay, prestige and upward mobility it will bring. And while it is often true that such a promotion will allow you to enjoy these things – if that is your only reason for wanting it, you will do yourself, the organization you work for, and all the people with whom you will interact a huge service if think a little more about your options before you charge full speed ahead.
Moving into management requires people to shift their focus from achieving individual success to achieving collective success. And the determining factor of that success changes from what you are able to do on your own to what you are able to accomplish through others. If your main interest is your own career mobility, you will have difficulty gaining the trust and respect of others that is necessary to influence and enable them to succeed. And if they do not succeed, neither will you.
Wanting them to succeed is not enough. You must be committed enough to their success to take the time to coach, mentor and otherwise support them to reach their career goals. If this does not appeal to you, it will feel like drudgery –something you must do that takes you away from all the things you would rather be doing. But if this work does appeal to you, every day will offer new opportunities to find meaning and fulfillment in your work – by helping others discover themselves to be greater than they initially realized, and working toward something bigger than yourself.
Moving into management requires people to shift from the tactical and operational to the strategic. That means that all the things you were good at as an individual contributor will no longer be sufficient to enable you to succeed as a manager and a leader. You will need to enable and rely on others to do those things so that you are freed up to do more strategic, big picture things – things that will require you to go out of your comfort zone.
Your focus must shift from the workings of your individual job to how all the jobs in your department complement each other and what you can do to allow the work of your department to best mesh with other departments and contribute to the organization as a whole. The problems you’ll address will have a larger span and impact those you were previously accustomed to working on and you will need to collaborate with people you may not have otherwise had to interface with. Additionally, a large part of your job will be envisioning and helping to create a better future – one that will allow the organization as a whole to succeed. Identifying and addressing opportunities that are coming around the bend and matching them to people with the talent necessary to seize them will become a vital part of your work.
It is not uncommon for people in management positions to find that these jobs don’t feel like they’re all they were cracked up to be. If you are one of them, it is important to realize that this doesn’t mean you failed. It simply means that you have succeeded in getting that much closer to finding work that is aligned with your true self – work that will not only bring you satisfaction and fulfillment but also the opportunity to make a vital contribution.
Get busy identifying what you are truly motivated to do. Many organizations have technical tracks that offer the same (or more) upward mobility and financial reward that management tracks do. Pay attention to the opportunities that have beckoned to you in the past – even the ones you thought were too crazy to entertain. If you have a recurring dream of doing anything other than what you are doing now, give it more credence. It just may be the ticket that allows you to find the job of your dreams – and the chance to exercise your own distinct form of leadership, by doing what you were truly meant to do.
Implications for Real Leaders
The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.
To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.