You Are Perfectly Programmed To Fail

One of the most challenging transitions you will face in your career as an economic development professional is successfully making the transition from manager to leader. Failure to do so caps your personal career potential and limits your ability to address many of the significant challenges facing your community.

The problem isn’t you. The problem is that everything you have learned to make you a successful manager is perfectly designed to cause you to fail as a leader; unless, you choose to unlearn certain behaviors.

“if you think like you always thought, you’ll always get what you always got.” Michael O’Brien

Success looks like moving from managing projects and teams to leading people and organizations.

Failure looks like doing instead of coaching and disempowering people. You need to resist the temptation to micro-manage, make all of the important decisions and be the “go-to” person.     Instead, you must publicly back the decisions of the people you are leading and teach them to be leaders as well.

What Should You Do?

  • Master the skills of servant leadership.         The core concept behind servant leadership is the focus on developing people as a way to deliver breakthrough results. As a servant leader you care about the success of the people you lead and you develop their skill mastery as a way to generate sustainable organizational results.
  • Work on the system not simply in the system. Focus on how things get done (or don’t get done) and concentrate on identifying process improvements to deliver even better results. If you simply work in the system, you limit your impact. Just because “this is the way we’ve always done it” is not an acceptable reason to not improve a process. If the process is a high leverage activity then improvement is worth your attention and the investment of resources.
  • Sharpen your consulting skills. You need to be able to recognize and capitalize on teaching moments to help the people you lead grow and develop. It helps to have a personal toolbox of models to help you problem solve and to teach critical thinking.         Practice the practical application of these models and become a proficient facilitator.         If you are not familiar with the analytical and problem solving models taught in Total Quality training, take some time to study them and make them part of your own skill set. Then teach others to see new connections and how to solve their problem with a total quality model.

What Does Success Look Like?

  • Role modeling leadership behavior so the people working with and for you learn from your actions.
  • Communicating broadly and often. This keeps people focused on the principles of what you are trying to accomplish and provides an opportunity to help you succeed.
  • Coach people who support you as though they were team members. When people feel you genuinely want to help them be more successful, they will invest in your personal development as a leader.
  • Create understanding, alignment and commitment to objectives and action plans.         This is your unique responsibility.
  • Focus on teaching “why” and not simply “what”. It is important you help people understand the reasons why you decide to do things and not simply how to execute.

How You Can Help

Leave a comment or share you experience in transitioning from doing to leading. What was the hardest skill for you to master? What are you currently working on to improve your leadership skill set? By sharing your experience you help add value to the discussion.

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