People are often promoted to positions of leadership because they were good at what they did technically - as a software developer, analyst, nurse, technician, etc.
They are sometimes viewed as "caught in the middle."
And for good reason. Senior leaders above them impose strategy that they are required to implement, and the team members who work for them look up for direction and support.
Meet the middle manager.
Now, most middle managers I know are enthusiastic, smart, and able, but there are several challenges that they face that usually go unseen.
Challenge 1: They are expected to rollout strategy without clarity of a clear vision and goals from senior leadership.
I have written in the past about how "vision" often alludes leaders. "I'm not visionary" is something I often hear in my leadership development programs.
As a result, leaders often fail to create and communicate a vision and instead develop project plans and product road maps. These are important tools, but they are management tools. They are tools for controlling what is happening today. I don't know anyone who was ever inspired by a project plan or a product road map.
I am amazed at how many leaders don't know the cost of losing good people. They often only associate administrative costs, recruiting costs, and interviewing time toward the overall impact when a good person leaves.
The challenge is that the true costs are so much more.
A great way to develop as a leader is to practice. Yes, literally practice.
For example, if you have found that you struggle being courageous in meetings, find some low risk opportunities to speak up. Practice.
Or, if you just go along for the sake of getting along, find a low risk opportunity to challenge the status quo. Practice.
Or, if you doubt yourself and defer to others, sit up straight and look the part unit there is no doubt. Practice.
If Henry Ford held focus groups, people would have asked for faster horses.
"I spend so much time just getting through the day and don't have time to think about long-term planning."
This is a common statement I hear in my leadership development coaching sessions. The challenge is that what got you here as a leader, won't get you to the next level of leadership.
Here are a few ideas to help you transition into your role.
As you seek to enhance your effectiveness, it's important to look back on your life and understand how key experiences, people, and events have impacted your habits and patterns of thinking.
Reflect on three time periods:
- The past 1-3 years.
- When you transitioned from school into the workplace.
- Your earlier years.
How have these experiences, people, and events shaped your thinking? How do they impact how you "show up" in the workplace?
“Are leaders born?”
This is an interesting question that I am often asked in the leadership development programs we run at 5.12 Solutions.
We believe that leadership isn’t about being charismatic and it’s not about some magical qualities that are bestowed upon you at birth. And you don’t have to go through special forces training as a rite of passage. Leadership is about employing key skills and behaviors on a consistent basis.
And those skills and behaviors can be learned.