Here’s a question I get asked fairly often: how can I move from being a manager to truly becoming a leader? It turns out that the answer is “it’s a journey; one you can start right now.”
The journey becomes more focused as a result of having a roadmap to follow to help you understand if you’re on track and making progress. The roadmap starts with a destination in mind and that destination is not obvious “title-based approach.”
Here’s a step by step process for helping you create your own leadership roadmap:
Step 1 – One perspective on the difference between managers and leaders is that managers manage tasks and projects while leaders inspire, guide, mentor, and coach their teams. The reality is the key difference is actually in the eyes of the followers. It turns out the perception of followers plays a big role in developing as a leader: if followers aren’t willing to be led then you will have no one to lead. This understanding is the first step.
Step 2 – Once you understand the role perception management plays in leadership it’s time to consider what leadership outcome you are striving to achieve. Your Leadership Vision is the “what and where” of your leadership journey: where do you want to end up and what will you do when you get there? As Cheshire Cat said to Alice, “if you don’t know where you’re going then any road will take you there!” This vision can be a role or position within a company or organization or it can be what you will be able to accomplish as a result of your leadership journey.
Step 3 – Now that you have your Vision, your what and where, it’s time to consider the how: your Leadership Core Purpose. Your core purpose is the underlying values, attitudes, and beliefs that drive your behaviours and actions towards my leadership vision. One question to help you determine is, “if we asked your followers how they would describe your strengths as a leader, what would they say?”
Step 4 – Now that you are clear on your destination and know how you are going to get there we need to understand where you are today. Draw a line down the center of a page and on the left side write a list of your leadership strengths both behavioural and skill/role related. On the right side of the page write a list of the areas you need to get stronger at that are consistent with your vision and core purpose.
Step 5 – Next to each area that requires improvement and each strength that needs to be maximized write a direction action you can take is year to move your closer towards your leadership vision. These actions can vary from reading, to taking courses, attending webinars, joining peer-groups, getting coaching, finding a mentor, finding opportunities to take on leadership roles outside of work (in my experience chairing a volunteer board is an amazing way to grow your leadership abilities), etc.
Step 6 – Now that you have actions setup it’s time to put some accountability into place. Create due dates and first steps for each of the actions. Then select an Accountability Buddy who can support you on your Leadership Roadmap, hold you accountable, and provide feedback and shared experiences when you feel stuck or at a crossroads.
Step 7 – Each quarter setup a review, evaluate, and revise session for yourself to see what progress you’ve made, what’s working, what’s not working, what’s missing, and what you can celebrate.
After reading this you may be thinking that the journey of a leader is more than an outer, visible journey, it’s a blend of the outer and an inner journey. If you have read the autobiographies of great leaders you already know how much of their focus is becoming a great leader was on self-reflection and discovery. This is the inner journey that is woven like a ribbon through the Leadership Roadmap. Think of it as your own personal iceberg: so much of the real weight is hidden below the surface and forms the true stability and power behind the iceberg.
I’m interested to hear about your personal journey as a leader. Please add a comment to this blog post so we turn this monologue into a dialogue.