After being a ‘bank jock’ as one of my former clients put it, for the last seven years, I recently transitioned into a people leader role.
Going from a regular employee — who only has to worry about their own KPI’s — to a leader, has taught me a lot in a short space of time.
Leadership is very different to a normal career as you might have guessed. You can’t do what you did as a single contributor in a business when you’re a leader.
You have to think differently when you go from being an everyday employee to a leader.
Here’s what changes when you become a leader:
You must control your state.
As a regular employee (especially in sales) you can fly off the rails and operate from any state you wish.
As a leader, you have to learn to control your state.
When a customer escalates to you from your team, you have to control how you react. You’re supposed to be the bigger man or woman.
Instead of jumping to conclusions, you’re expected to use your emotional intelligence to understand the problem and stay calm in stressful situations.
You can’t go and cry to your boss every time a problem arises. And problems will arise even more as a leader.
Knowing how to control your state will save you.
Keeping the bigger picture in mind and not falling for short-term emotional states is a skill you’ll have to implement quickly if you are to succeed.
You must confront your fears.
As a regular employee, you can hide behind others and go unnoticed. I learned this the hard way when I suffered from mental illness and didn’t confront the issue head-on.
I hid my fear of anyone finding out about my mental illness and it crippled my career.
As I transitioned into being more of a leader I learned how to confront my fears and even share them.
The best leaders are vulnerable and if you’re to become one, you’ll need to learn to confront your fears on a daily basis. Why? See the next point.
You must go first.
As a regular employee, you follow the leadership team and watch what they do first. You let the leaders make decisions and then you execute.
As a leader, everything starts with you.
Leaders must go first and that’s why you’ll have to confront your fears. Going first means feeling the fear and taking action regardless. You can’t let fear hold you back if you are to go first.
You must go first as a leader because it’s on you to set the tone and be the example of what’s possible.
You must inspire.
As a regular employee, you are the one being inspired. You look to mentors and leaders to inspire you and show you what’s possible.
As a leader, everything happens in reverse. Your sole job is to inspire people to take action and execute on the goals of the business. This is done through your own example.
“Your job is to use the challenges you’ve overcome in your own career and life to inspire your team to do the same”
You do this by sharing the following:
- Huge failures in business
- Health challenges
- Romantic relationship issues and even divorce
- Career gaps
- Side hustles you started
You can also bring in third-party tools to assist such as Ted Talks, inspiring videos and online courses.
My favorite tool to use is to get colleagues to attend Tony Robbins events where they can be inspired face-to-face and be fully immersed in life-changing strategies.
Whatever you do, as a leader, you must inspire.
You must give first.
“To get people to do what you want, you first have to give them what they want”
This is the part many wannabe leaders mess up. Your job is not to dish out orders; your job is to find out what motivates the people who work for you and then help them hit their personal goals.
Once people feel like you have their back and they are well on the way to hitting their own goals, they’ll do whatever is required to help you hit your goals. It starts with you. Give first.
You don’t get to complain.
As a regular employee, you can complain all you want. It’s your bosses problem to deal with and to listen to.
Leadership is very different. Your job is not to complain but to identify issues (10%) and then spend the other 90% of your time solving those issues.
Going from a culture of complaining to problem finding, followed instantly by solution identification is not easy.
It feels good to complain and then do nothing.
As a leader, you’ll never do well if you complain yourself. You’re expected to have given up the game of complaining when you become a leader. You’re expected to be better than that.
You’ll have to be clear what you stand for.
As a regular employee, no one is going to necessarily ask you what you stand for on a daily basis. All that changes when you become a leader.
Leaders stand for something and they have a list of principles they lead by. I learned this the hard way when I interviewed for a leadership position and was asked what I stood for.
I fumbled around trying to answer the question and had not thought about what I stood for as a leader before. Now I’m crystal clear on what I stand for.
Here’s what I stand for as an example:
- Everyone gets treated equally
- I won’t ask you to do something I’m not prepared to do myself
- I will inspire you to pursue whatever goal lights you up
- I will help you write a clear career plan that we will follow up on fortnightly
- I will inspire you through personal development
- I will not abuse my power and use it for good
- I will expect you to give back to the community in your own unique way
- I will breed more leaders from my team
As a leader, you’ll need to stand for something and have a set of principles that guide you.
You’re responsible. The End.
The biggest difference between a regular employee and a leader I’ve learned is that you’re responsible. No matter who messes up, you’re expected to own issues and be responsible.
The buck stops with you and you can’t transfer the blame away from yourself like you can as a regular employee.
As a leader, you will fail and that’s okay. The key is to own your failures and admit them. After all, you’re paid more to be responsible. Responsibility is not easy, but that’s what leadership is.
“Leadership is not easy and that’s why we’re not all leaders”
The beauty is that being a leader allows you to grow more than you ever have before. Leadership is not something to be afraid of, but rather it should be embraced.
Don’t abuse your power. Use your power for good.
Transitioning from being a regular employee to a leader is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
Leadership will define you.