I couldn’t wait to be promoted. I knew all the things I wanted to accomplish. I was also looking forward to the perks of leadership. In the Army we used to say, “Rank Has It’s Privileges (RHIP).”
But, years later, I realized that these sentiments were naive. They seem real to someone who has not held a position of leadership. But, once I earned that promotion, I learned that my assumptions were far from reality.
I Was Naive
Assumption #1: When I am in charge, I will have more autonomy. My boss won’t be telling me how or when to do things.
Reality: Maintaining control of your time as a leader is difficult. You now have three groups of people who influence your time.
· You do not control the timing of the phone calls from those you lead.
· You do not control the timing of meetings or calls of leadership peers.
· You do not control the timing of meetings or calls of your superiors.
Assumption #2: It is going to be great when upper management sees the things I do well and all that I can accomplish.
Reality: The things I received kudos for in the past are minimum expectations at the next level. The people above me do not have time to praise leaders who are just meeting the minimum expectations.
Not to mention, as I move up in an organization praise is limited. It is a numbers game. There are fewer people above me to praise me.
Assumption #3: I will be responsive to my people. If they call, I will always be there for them.
Reality: If you wait for them to call you, most people won’t. As a leader, I must be proactive. I must not wait to respond in a reactive manner. Trust me, there will always be the squeaky wheels to react to. But, those are not the ones to be concerned with.
Be concerned about the quiet ones. They are either content or apathetic. The apathetic ones scare me. The only way to make the diagnosis between contentment and apathy is to be proactive in your communication with them.
My people need to see that I am offering my hand to assist, not just waiting in my office for a call to respond to. Leadership is proactive. Management is reactive.
Assumption #4: First thing I am going to do is to get rid of the dead weight in this department. My decisions are going to be logical and easy to defend.
Reality: If I fire someone, the person leaving can say anything they want about my decision or me as they leave. But I must stay quiet. There are legal and moral standards involved. I’ll leave the legal issues to the lawyers.
But morally, the coaching and the reason for firing that person remain between that employee and me. If that person chooses to expose the reasons for the firing to her peers, that is her right. However, it is not my right to defend myself no matter how much mud is thrown my way. I must take the high road.
Important point: Have you ever heard a fired employee state: “Yeah, I deserved it?” They will complain. They will blame. As a leader, I need to keep that person’s situation as private as possible, out of respect for them. Trust me. As my neighbor in the FBI says, “The guilty can’t help talking.”
The Bottom Line:
When you go up in rank, you relinquish your personal rights for the good of those you lead. The perks I assumed were given were actually earned.
As a leader, I spend less time thinking about myself, taking care of my own needs, and expecting recognition for my efforts. I must be selfless.
What assumption about leadership was proven false when you first became a leader?