Your job as a leader can only be one thing. And that is to realize the purpose and strategy of your company.
That’s your job in a nutshell. The rest are activities, processes and methods that ideally should lead to the fulfillment of this job.
Does that mean that all the things around the job aren’t important? Certainly not. Some of them are crucial, but maintain your critical sense and primarily keep your focus on creating value for the business, your customers and your employees – even when others pull in a different direction. In general, the move to a leadership position is about you adjusting your focus from yourself to a focus on others. That you adjust your focus from what you need to deliver and succeed with, to also include how you help others to be useful and have an impact. This is both a rational and a mental exercise that should make sense, plus that you have to know specifically how you can do it.
However, it’s also an emotional and value-based exercise. It’s not enough that you understand what the transition requires in terms of changes – it also requires you to find it meaningful, engaging and motivating to make these changes and can identify the potential blockers or habits that might stand in the way.
You used to be responsible for the tasks. Now you are more responsible for the people who are responsible for the tasks, and this will only happen if you have both the insight and the acceptance in place. You’re not going to be completely successful by only in mind accepting this transition. In fact, you also have to achieve a certain form of satisfaction and engagement by reaching ambitious goals through other people’s efforts. For this to happen, it requires amongst other things that you find it interesting to dive into the fundamentals of leadership and learn the elements that are connected with being a leader.
It’s not just a new job you’ve got. It is also an opportunity to go through a new education and have a significant impact. This education and impact starts with the fact that there are other people who choose to believe in you. Not because you’ve got a new title or formal authority. That doesn’t make you a leader. You first become a leader when others voluntarily choose to follow the purpose of the company and the way you choose to set course, motivate and inspire – always with the purpose and desired impact in mind.
Be frank and clear in your choices
There will be a lot of people who will have opinions about what you should focus on in your new job, which can be a gift, since much of this advice will be valuable to you. Therefore, draw on all the experiences that people around you have, but don’t fall into the trap of being so receptive that your own way into leadership becomes unclear.
You have to formulate your own leadership foundation that acts as your compass and the place you can always go back to when you’re in doubt or being pressured from outside. A foundation that doesn’t change fundamentally when you encounter changes around you and is therefore also a point of reference for you when dilemmas arise.
This leadership foundation consists of the following parts:
Your purpose as a leader
Your purpose of being a leader is that entitles you to have the position. It is the core of your leadership foundation and what legitimizes that it is precisely you who is in the position. Your purpose of being a leader should contain something that goes beyond yourself. It should be related to the greater purpose your business is trying to accomplish, and it should also be about those people who you are leading and especially the impact you want to realize. Your purpose must motivate you and inspire others. That is the test and what tells you if you have been thorough and deep enough in stating this. It will be a filter that will help you with whether you should go left or right, rather than just following others’ attitudes or expectations of you as a leader. A starting point when defining your purpose is being clear on the contribution you want to make – combined with the impact that contributions should have.
The contribution is closely connected to who you are and what you are really good at. You can see it as the core superpower of yours which is usually a combination of professional and personal elements. So, if you really zoom in – what might be the core superpower of yours that often leads to the creation of the impact you want to have as a leader?
The impact part is your endgame. It is the ultimate value you want to create explained in a focused way. See this as the proof point of your purpose and telling you if you are on the right track.
Your values as a leader
Your values are your belief system and what you expect from yourself, as well as what others can expect from you. These values should really mean something to you and define you as a person and as a leader. Once these are in place and are acted out, they create trust in you and trust that the decisions you make are credible. As a leader, you are especially obliged to having a connection between what you say and what you subsequently do in terms of the role you have now stepped into. Clearly formulating your values and acting on the these in a consistent way is a valuable tool for leading and influencing other people, which is now part of your job. When your values are clear, then your actions and decisions will also be clear if you actually do what your values tell you to do. You will be helped in making decisions that is not just emotionally based, but more based on core values and principles.
As yourself the question:
Who do I want to be as a person?
In reality, your values will be challenged, and it might be that you will need to adjust the way you translate them as you go, since you have the task of fulfilling the expectations your business has of you, the expectations that colleagues, employees and partners have of you, and not least the expectations you have of yourself. These different elements don’t always agree with each other, so you have to be aware of what the balance looks like without fundamentally compromising what you believe in or what the business believes in. Therefore, look at what the relationship is like between your own values and the values that characterize your business and make a meaningful connection between those two.
Your footprints as a leader
If the values are the way in which you act, your footprints are what you specifically want to realize. To a large extent, leadership is about creating and realizing something valuable that doesn’t yet exist. As a leader, you have the opportunity to be part of creating impact that adds value to the business, your customers, your employees and yourself. It’s the gift of the role as a leader and a big part of the pay-off you can get in that position. Therefore, you should be clear about the footprints you want to be part of and what you will be proud of having contributed with, which has created great value. It is through your footprints that you have the opportunity to experience the actual value of your work as a leader, where you and others have experienced a real difference in value.
Your actions as a leader
Millions of hours are spent on formulating strategic plans in businesses and development plans for leaders and employees that have never really hit the ground. Stand out from the crowd by doing something about what you say. As a leader, your ability to execute is what converts expressed ambitions into action and desires into results. That you are able to make things happen also makes it easier for others to see what a desired future can look like, and most of the credibility and trust in you as a leader are based on the relationship between what you say and whether you subsequently actually do it. That is, to take your own statements and ambitions seriously enough to put them into reality. You can be absolutely sure that it will be challenged in everyday life, but it’s precisely here that all these fancy statements will be put to the test. Are they so important to you that you’re willing to do something about them? Are the statements crucial to your and your business’ success? Questions like these will be relevant and will be necessary to ask along the way as a test and assessment of their real value and usefulness.
The choice of being a leader is quite a change for everyone, so it is vital that you also enjoy the ride and find meaning and energy in the challenges, work and results along the way, and keep in mind that the job is now bigger than yourself. Now you are giving more of time and energy to other people and it is more about the collective efforts than our individual ones.
Leadership is more about being useful than successful.
Being successful will be attractive to most people, because it gives us an immediate payoff, we feel good and potentially look good compared to other people. In short, it feeds our ego. The downside of that is that we might miss our surroundings. We might miss the opportunities to fulfill the needs of other people. We might miss paying attention to what our customers and colleagues are telling us, because we are so caught up in our own world that the rest seems less important.
It is harder to be useful than successful – but the reward is also that bigger – so what do you do now?