Do it your way!

I spend a good deal of my time talking with up-and-coming leaders, and have had the honor of mentoring many of them as well. These folks are strong, smart, ambitious, and most of them know what they want out of life and their careers. At the very least, they know they want more. These folks are at all different levels of the organization, from manager all the way up to Senior Vice President.

They share future visions of leading large teams, of running major project initiatives. More often than not, they express a desire to make a positive impact in the world. One leader told me, “I want to be able to influence a large group of people, to help them realize dreams and goals they might not have thought possible.”

Which makes this next part all the more curious. I have heard from multiple leaders some version of the following:

“I am in line for my boss’s job, and I don’t want it/don’t think I can do it.”

The obvious question, and I ask it every time, is why? Why would these capable, driven leaders say something like this? The first thing to note is that they are not saying this because they have something else in mind. They are not, for instance, in line to be the head of marketing and would rather be the head of HR. I have asked, and I know this is not the case. Second, it is also important to note that in every case there is no indication that the individual is lacking any of the skills necessary to handle the job.

So what’s the deal? The responses sound something like this:

“I see my boss attending events that I have no interest attending.”

“The way the department is now, I could never run things that way.”

“The hours he puts in! And the people he has to talk to! I just can’t see myself doing that.”

“If the job entails doing x, y, z, then it just isn’t for me.”

The flaw in the logic should be immediately obvious when reading this objectively and from a distance. Up close, it is exceptionally hard to see. But here it is:

Just do it your way!

Being a leader means forging your own path. It is about using your own particular strengths and leveraging the strengths of your particular team. This will never (at least, not ever in my experience) look like what was in place before you got there, nor will it look like what will follow when you leave. In fact, because of this the leader who attempts to imitate the leader they follow is setting themselves up for certain disaster. No two people are the same, no two leaders are the same, no two teams are the same.

One quick acknowledgement. There may be a situation where there is a non-negotiable in the job description that just cannot be overcome. No one should ever feel bad about turning a job down when this is the case. What I contend, however, is that when it comes to leadership, nearly everything is negotiable. Don’t want to attend every function? Empower your associates to help out! Don’t like the way things are set up or organized? Rearrange it! Don’t want to work the long hours? Build in efficiencies and alternate work arrangements to get things done.

My suggestion is this: If you are in line (or could be in line) for a new position, and you hear a little voice inside tell you that you don’t want it or can’t do it, step back a minute and double check that you aren’t making assumptions about the job that just aren’t valid. Then

Go do it your way!

Keep it positive and smile! Happy Tuesday!