Falling Into Leadership

An individual taking on a leadership role is often something that has ‘just happened’.

Being a genuine leader does not come from the role and title designated to you but rather from your decision-making, inclusiveness, delegation skills, ability to communicate and other, well-recognised and documented traits. Many of these traits can be learned and enhanced through proper coaching.

Does this story mean anything to you?

You started in a company at a lower level. Opportunity presented itself in the form of a chance to step-up temporarily or permanently into a role providing more money, esteem, credibility or some other perceived benefit. You jumped at it! Of course, along with all of the benefits the role also came with much higher expectation…that of others and your self.

You worked hard…things went fairly well but you didn’t really feel supported to truly excel. You wanted to be the best operator so didn’t ask many questions  – after all, asking questions shows that you were not ready for the promotion in the first place, doesn’t it? “Better to bite your tongue and work your way through the issues on your own”, is a common thought and action at this stage.

Your boss didn’t spend much time developing you or even working with you day to day. This autonomy had its benefits, but also plenty of downside. You were often stressed, tried to please everyone and in so doing often pleased the few, including yourself.

Longer hours and pressure meant that you regularly wanted something different but didn’t know how to achieve it or even what that difference looks like.

However, after a while further opportunity presented itself. Another step onwards and upwards. You wondered why you were being considered as you don’ t feel like you have been particularly effective in your current role, but people seem to like you and you occasionally receive some good feedback, however insincere it often seems. You know in your heart that you are not ready for more responsibility…more stress…but you wonder can I “fake it ‘til I make it at an even higher level?”

So, you take on the new role because it’s expected of you, or it offers greater prestige, salary or some other perceived benefit – you don’t want to let others down and certainly the benefits outweigh the negatives…don’t they!??

Now, you’re leading people.

You are responsible for a process and regular input into projects and other ad-hoc work requiring your expertise, skill and knowledge. You are also now not only accountable for yourself but leading, developing, coaching and inspiring others. Are you ready to lead? If not, the impact will be felt by many. Effective leadership can have a significant benefit on a team or business culture, personnel satisfaction, attrition, sickness levels and the bottom line. Ineffective leadership has exactly the opposite impact. Now, how does that pressure feel for you???

Does this scenario sound familiar? In my experience and working with many new and experienced leaders, this is a very common journey felt by many. Most of these people felt they had few opportunities to rectify their situation. Progress and genuine development will only succeed if you are willing to take some risks, source someone to assist you (a coach, mentor, role-model or some other trusted person) and challenge your own beliefs, perceptions and perspectives.

The ability to take yourself out of your comfort zone often enough to test yourself and learn, is key. Knowing when to step back into your comfort zone is also a skill linked to self-awareness and emotional intelligence. These are skills and traits that can be learned.

Regularly the difference for individuals who are experiencing these fears, self-limiting beliefs, poor feedback and other negative impacts is their willingness to seek help. There is no doubt that the most effective and respected leaders in any role or organisation are those who recognise that they are not in their role because they have all the answers. Rather they are successful because they understand their own strengths and limitations, possessing the emotional intelligence to surround themselves with a team who have various strengths and skillsets that contribute to the synergy and effectiveness of the team.

Ironically, emphasising delegation as a standard, building strong/ trusting relationships, focusing on self-development and coaching of others, amongst other elements starts to enable development and improvement. This manifests itself through better work-life balance, team members feeling more engaged through contribution and being heard, less of a feeling that the leader has to take on all the work his/herself, prioritisation and many, many other more positive influences.

The first step is the key step. Seek out someone you trust to share your situation with and move forward through understanding your choices and taking relevant action.