Your real role as a leader

by | Jul 11, 2023

If you’re a leader in an organization, hopefully it’s because you’ve been deemed great at motivating and inspiring your people to success. Too often, organizations promote someone who is great at specific roles to then be a manager/leader of a team or department. These are two different skillsets and not always mutually inclusive. What makes a great programmer does not necessarily make a great manager of other programmers. What makes a great sales person does not always make a great leader of the sales team.

However, you are in a leadership role because of something. You have skills, talents, gifts. It might have taken you years of education, experience, self-development, and training to get where you are.

We do what we do. It’s easy. It comes naturally.

The problem comes in when we forget what it took to get us where we are today, and we expect our team or the people who report to us to behave and act the way we do.

(Which is a fallacy as, ideally, we should be surrounding ourselves with others who are different from us. But that’s another article for another day.)

As a certified Talent2Strength Trainer, one of the frameworks I use is the performance ladder. In this model, there are 8 levels of performance of a particular task or activity, starting with oblivious and making its way up to mastery.

As a leader, you are probably at Strength (level 7) or even Master (level 8). But your direct reports are probably down at a lower level.

You can’t just assume (or wish) they were higher up.

What can you do to help them move up the ladder?

  • Reflect on what it took you to get where you are today. Did you have a mentor? Did you shadow someone who was at the Strength or Mastery level for weeks in a former role? Did you read countless books on the subject? Take classes? It may not be feasible for your direct report to do everything you have done (and by tomorrow, please!), but at least acknowledging what it took for you to be where you are can help you understand the gap.
  • Determine what success looks like at each level. Someone at Basic… what can they be expected to do at that level? What about Competent? Advanced?
  • What is a reasonable timeframe to move from rung to rung on the performance ladder? I don’t mean 20 years to get to the Mastery level. If you bring in a new hire fresh out of college, they’re probably at a Beginner level. Most organizational development and HR experts say it takes at least 6 months for a new hire to get comfortable in their role. If you’re expecting them to be at Competent in 30 days after coming in at Beginner or Basic, you’re probably being unrealistic.
  • Engage your employee and talk about their development in the organization. What do they want? Where do they see themselves on this ladder? Where do they want to be? What ideas do they have for getting there? Make this a collaborative and ongoing discussion, not a decree from on high.

The more you invest in your people’s success, the more successful they’ll be, which will translate into success for your team, department, and organization.


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