I don’t know about you, but as my career shifted from managing to leading others, I found there was a tremendous gulf I had to cross before I could effectively lead others. That gulf was as large as the Grand Canyon on some days, and as precarious as walking a tight rope without a net.
- It wasn’t as if I hadn’t learned good skills from my predecessors; I had the fortunate tutelage of some very good bosses.
- And it wasn’t something I could read and learn about in a leadership book or workshop, although I did plenty of those.
- Even with the best seminars, classes and mentors, I had to fall flat on my face a few times before I could become effective at leading others.
Learning to lead others isn’t like learning to ride a bike where someone shows you how they do it, helps lend a hand for balance, and then eventually lets go so you do it on your own. It’s more complicated than a simple master/apprentice teaching model.
For me, the huge shift happened when I stopped focusing on how I was doing as a leader to how you could best use my help in finding your own way. That happened over time as I gradually became more self-aware. With increased self-knowledge, I gained inner confidence – at least enough so I could shift my focus from inside to outside.
It takes a lot of hard work to achieve a high enough level of self-awareness to become competent at leading others. Yet it’s true that those who get promoted to positions of leadership aren’t usually contemplative or introspective – usually they are hard-charging, results-oriented people. And their focus outward on results is what makes them good at their jobs, but not always good at leading others.
When I’m coaching individuals enrolled in high-potential programs for leadership development, I strive to help them cross the Grand Canyons in their minds. How can they shift from a focus on results, keep an eye on inner wisdom, self-observation, and keep their balance without falling? How can you deliberately practice leading others?
I don’t know of any better way to learn about leading others than working with a coach. It’s key to increasing self-knowledge, which is the foundation to emotional intelligence and executive presence. I have a few good tips on how to gain better self-awareness coming in my next posts.