Part 1 was a teensy bit tongue in cheek. I get concerned that we often only see the Hollywood aspect of leadership – power, money, cars, Donald Trump – and miss the daily, grinding realities of it. Being a leader is difficult and comes with a lot of downsides. Leadership also comes with several upsides that don’t get much press. They aren’t flashy and aren’t for everyone, but they are important.
1. As a leader, the culture of your team is up to you. It gets established and reinforced daily just by how you show up, how you interact, and how you make sure work gets done. You can make it a great place to be where people want to do their best.
2. You are crucial to your employees’ growth and development. Sure, they have to actually do the learning, but the tone you set determines how much importance they’ll place on development and what they get out of it. You also have a perspective they don’t have and are in a position to coach and foster their strengths and build on their, um, not-so-strengths. And, how you champion them in the company determines a big part of their career trajectory. Leaders with a reputation for developing great talent tend to stand out.
3. You determine the customer experience. Whether your customers are internal or external, how your team treats those customers will be a direct reflection of two things: 1) the expectations you set, model, and reinforce; and 2) how your employees get treated by you. I’m a firm believer in the adage: the customer experience rarely exceeds the employee experience. It’s easy to tell who has a great manager just by how the customer gets treated.
4. You get to solve bigger and more interesting problems. The TV version of leadership shows your problems getting smaller as you move up in the company. NOT TRUE. Everyone’s pay is ultimately based on the problems they are expected to solve. The bigger and more complicated, uncertain, and ambiguous problems you solve, the more you get paid. And, the more you get paid, the more challenging the problems are. For example, entry-level positions deal with problems that are simple and have pre-determined answers (e.g., scanning a product and giving change to customers) and executives deal with huge problems affecting the entire company where there aren’t obvious answers (e.g., determining the best balance of stability, profitability, and growth over the next five years and the best way to achieve that balance).
5. Leadership is knowing and working with people. Although leaders do deal with technical problems, the leader’s job has people at its core. Business gets done for, through, and by people and people are logical, irrational, funny, bitter, kind, mean, caring, apathetic, generous, selfish, and a whole bunch of other paradoxes operating at the same time. As a leader you are at the center of all that, juggling a thousand things, and trying to make sense of it all. Every day is different and every day brings fresh challenges.
The best part is you don’t need title to do any of this. Leadership is about influence; about bringing out the best in those around you. Some days a title helps, but there is nothing preventing you from setting great examples, treating teammates and customers well, encouraging other people’s development, and becoming known as a problem solver.
Should you be a leader? Yes, every day. Should you accept a job with a leadership title? That one’s up to you.