The Evolution of a Leader
Receiving an award for Outstanding Professional Achievement from Mount Royal University left me with reflecting on my transition in Executive Coaching and becoming a business owner and business leader. This got me thinking about an experience back in the spring of 2016 when I participated in a research group for Dr. Simon Raby at the University of Calgary, Haskayne School of Business exploring successful leadership transitions for VP’s. In reviewing Dr. Raby’s report and what leads to successful leadership transitions and evolution, here are the areas that I’ve personally experienced and seen with my clients that have been critical to their success:
Critical Elements of Success
Set Boundaries Early On
Reaching the role of VP often means that you’ve been able to achieve exceptional business results and the organization seeks your strategic leadership to guide the organization and develop that expertise in others. When others are counting on you, it can be hard to hold personal boundaries and impossible if you don’t take stock of your boundaries and communicate them resulting in sleepless nights and no ability to think strategically because you’re always on the go. Dr. Henry Cloud says: You get what you create, and you get what you allow. Effective boundaries include establishing with your team and peers’ urgent matters that will be addressed anytime and others that will wait until business hours allowing leaders to maintain relationships with family, friends and engage in activities outside of work for personal enjoyment and wellbeing. In short, ensure you carve out time for yourself and a life outside of work.
Get Comfortable with Uncertainty
Resiliency doesn’t mean things get easier, you simply gain confidence that you can step into the unknown and have faith that you’ll find your way out to the other side no matter what happens. Letting go of certainty is easy to say and hard to do yet being a leader means there are decisions where there are no right answers. There are hard conversations with uncertain outcomes. There are ideas to be spoken that may ruffle feathers. There are directions and strategies that have never been tried. Accept challenging situations, be willing to get curious, and look for the learning in them.
Continually Display Hunger from Knowledge and Growth
Know the business you are in deeply and continually seek to develop even deeper knowledge and understanding. Seek to continuously learn about leadership and yourself as a leader. Surround yourself with experts to learn from in all areas of the business no matter what business function you lead will enhance your systems and strategic thinking. It’s not about becoming an expert in every area but maintaining regular learning and exposure to diverse knowledge and thinking.
Take a Long-Term Perspective
Success happens gradually over time. Ten years in business has flown by and when I reflect back, I didn’t imagine I’d have the business I do today on the first day. Slowly I made more good decisions than bad. Slowly I built my knowledge, my support team, my reputation, and my business. Not that I want you to be complacent, but hurry slowly and think about the long-term impact of your short-term decisions today and be patient with yourself and others. Confidence takes time to build as does reputation.
Seek out Support
Surround yourself with a well-rounded personal org chart. You’ll need experts in various business functions to serve as mentors. Mentors are also important from an emotional support perspective and I’m a fan of having mentors outside your organization and even outside your specific expertise area who are ahead of you in their leadership journey. You’ll also need a few seats for emotional support, people you can call on to share the tough days you encounter to talk you off the ledge or to reflect back to you that what you’re feeling is normal.
Evolving as a leader takes the form of many transitions. Some are transitions to senior leadership roles, some are transitions to new organizations, and some are transitions in your personal development. Each transition is challenging in its own way and these five areas of focus will help you make the most of each step along the way.