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Is Your Leadership Career Stalled?

I’ve been a student and practitioner of leadership for many years. I’ve seen literally thousands of leaders up close over a 35-year career. It’s been fun to look for patterns and themes. One of the questions, I’ve tried to answer is this, “Why do some leaders stall while others, in very similar circumstances, soar?”

Before I share a few observations on this question, I feel the need to acknowledge the complexity of this issue. Clearly, the answer is multi-faceted. Success factors can include training, environmental factors, and perhaps even DNA. However, none of these are the topic of this post.
I think one of the primary determinants of the trajectory, longevity and impact of a leader can be encapsulated in his or her response to one question…

What is my primary role?

To simplify this further, I’ll propose three possible answers to the question. The answer you and I select makes all the difference in our leadership journey.
A. Doer – Many of us started here. We were solid, if not outstanding, individual contributors – we did something with excellence. More than likely, someone in a position of authority noticed our effort and before we knew what had happened, we were given a position of leadership.
Often, men and women given this new role receive no training, and the expectations are murky at best; we just know we are supposed to produce results, so we do. We do the work alongside those we were charged to lead. Before long, we reach our personal limit and realize our current approach to “leadership” is not sustainable. In a search for a solution, we discover Option B.
B. Delegator – For many leaders, this discovery is a breath of fresh air. Many of the challenges we faced as a Doer are gone. We now have more time, more freedom and more capacity. The dark side of this approach is the dependence, or codependence we can create along the way.
For many leaders, delegation is a thinly veiled command and control model of leadership. While this style has merit in limited circumstances (e.g., the battle field), it has unintended consequences that greatly limit a leader’s effectiveness and capacity long-term. The primary concern is the fact the leader, now more than ever, is the lid on the enterprise. If we rely on people to know what to do and how to do it only when we tell them, we are still a prisoner to those we lead. Tragically, many leaders get stuck in this mode and thus, their career is stalled indefinitely.
C. Developer – The good news, there is another way to get work done. A way that is sustainable over time. The leaders I’ve seen excel time and time again, see their role differently. They don’t see themselves as a Doer or a Delegator, although in some cases they’ll do both these things. They fundamentally see themselves as a Developer. They know that it is only when they develop others, they are truly multiplying their impact. Leaders love multiplication!
If your leadership career is stalled, perhaps you need to be more of a Developer. This developer mindset shows up in many ways. The best leaders invest time, energy and resources to develop people. I’ll write more about how this can manifest itself in my next post.[GLS_Shield]
Are you primarily a Doer, Delegator, or a Developer?

Leave a comment



Bob

7 years ago

This is a very interesting post! I’m personally more of a “developer”. That’s not to brag, I’m just bent that way. I really enjoy seeing people grow and reach new limits.
With that being said, many leaders I interact with do not recognize the importance of this topic. They take the attitude that they are not babysitters. I’ve heard it many times, “these people are grown ups”.
How do you suggest getting through to leaders with this kind of attitude?

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mark

7 years ago

Thanks for your comment! If you have specific topics you’d like me to address, let me know. PS I am a Burberry customer 🙂 Mark

joe

7 years ago

Great post! With down sizing I’ve gone from doer/deligator/developer back to doer in my new position working on growing once again into a developer. With the constant changing in the marketplace and the amount of time limited in a leadership position constant learning is essential to find success. It’s a challenge to have to make a transition into something new and continue to grow in your leadership skill especially when your current position is on a lower level of leadership. Humility is a true companion during a transition of this kind.

mark

7 years ago

Joe, thanks for taking time to comment! I understand completely – I’ve experienced several “transitions” in my career. It’s a good sign you’ve been willing and able to modify your leadership approach accordingly. Please call on me if I can help. Enjoy the journey! Mark

@CrazyPanamanian

7 years ago

This post resonates with my leadership journey and my current struggle. I have been in all 3 stages and I’m currently looking for a way to make a difference in my new role.
Looking forward to seeing your examples. I have some of my own.

mark

7 years ago

Thanks for your comment! I believe our role will forever be dynamic. My challenge is to not get stuck in the Doer or Delegator mode. Please call on me if I can serve you in the future. Mark

Kent Julian

7 years ago

Great post. Love the development of thought. Outstanding!
Additionally, I believe it’s actually best for leaders to be all three.
Leaders who develop others probably should continue to keep some focus on being doers in those area where they are most gifted. Developing others is definitely important here, but part of staying passionate and involved as a leader is making sure we do what we love in the areas we serve best.
In a former position, I did a solid job developing other leaders. In fact, I did it so well that I started letting go of some of the doing areas I enjoyed and was gifted in. There’s a lot more to the story, but what I discovered was I started losing passion for the position. I also started losing some frontline involvement that helped me stay sharp.
Bottom line, the development of others is absolutely a key to success as a leader. But there is also a place for leaders to stay involved as doers.

mark

7 years ago

Kent, thanks for joining the conversation! I agree with you at the principle level: leaders must remain passionate about the cause. The cautionary note is this, “Doing”is a slippery slope for leaders. Be careful. in our business we’d say, it’s hard to lead a multi-million dollar business while cooking fries. Have fun and keep your passion white hot. Mark

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7 years ago

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William

7 years ago

Awesome post as always Mark. Keep it up, it’s very helpful and reaffirms whether you’re on the right track or not. I’m personally passionate about personal development and especially of others!

mark

7 years ago

Thanks for taking time to comment, William! Please let me know if I can serve you in the future. Mark

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