Frieda was a brilliant engineer. So brilliant that she was chosen to be the team leader of a team of specialist engineers. Frieda was pretty good at that too, so she got promoted to the Operations Manager job with six reporting senior engineers and a total team of sixty engineers and technicians.
Frieda still saw herself as a brilliant engineer and so kept thinking and doing like a brilliant engineer. She solved problems. She got into the detail. After six months she lost her job as Operations Manager because the division was falling apart.
Becoming a leader of leaders is a completely different job to leading a team of experts. It is a big change. To succeed you must change how you see yourself. You must give yourself a promotion.
We act from how we see ourselves
We think and act out the story we have about ourselves. So long as there is an alignment between how you see yourself and what you want to do, then everything is fine. But when you become a leader of leaders you are doing a completely different job. If you don’t consciously give yourself a promotion, you will stay the same still doing the work that you are comfortable with and that fits your image of yourself. As a result, you’ll micromanage the leaders that report to you and you will not do the important parts of your new job.
So, how can you change how you see yourself? Here are some ideas:
Mind your language
Our language, what we talk about and how we say it, to ourselves and others, reflects how we see ourselves. If we spend most of our time talking about the technical details of our original occupation, then it’s very likely we still see ourselves in that role. If we keep talking about why someone ‘up there’ doesn’t do something, then we still see ourselves as ‘at the bottom’ and powerless.
Leaders of leaders don’t use that language. But our language not only reveals how we see ourselves, it also continues to generate how we see ourselves. Our language describes and creates at the same time. Instead, talk about what leaders of leaders talk about, strategy, organisation, systems, customers, leadership and culture and making things better.
Focus on the unique value of your role
Keep asking yourself this important question; what is the unique value of my leader of leader role? What is it that only I in my role can do that no-one else can do? It’s so easy to get carried down the stream of busyness doing all kinds of stuff, looking busy, intense and haggard and not be doing what really matters.
Shape your time
Take the answer to what is the unique value of your role and make sure you design your work schedule to give top priority to doing this work. Sometimes you will get swept downstream for a bit but at least be aware that you aren’t where you want to be. Get out of the stream and get back to what matters most in your role. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself sinking in a sea of irrelevance.
To succeed in the transition to leader of leader, you must give yourself a promotion. It all starts with changing how you see yourself.
To find out more about becoming a leader of leaders, get a copy of my new book “Becoming a Leader of Leaders: How to succeed at bigger jobs and still have a life.’