When I was first promoted into management, I was 18 wise old years of age. At that age, of course, I thought I knew…well, you can guess… EVERYTHING! I’m hoping we’ve all been there and that it isn’t just me, but if so, let’s just say, I’ve learned a thing or two since then. You? Hehe!
I literally thought that because I had the title of manager, direct reports, and responsibility for a well-known retail store that #1, I had “arrived” and #2, I had been bestowed upon some figurative cape and crown. Yep, you read correctly and whether or not I actually wore a cape and crown was irrelevant to the fact that I acted as if I had one on and it entitled me to some special powers. They didn’t make me special or more powerful then and these kinds of concepts still don’t empower you as a leader or make you anything more than an inflated ego with fewer friends. In fact, acting as if you wear a cape and crown will actually KEEP you from being the well-respected leader they deserve and here’s why:
Your role as a leader is to help develop those you lead. Team members will struggle hearing your guidance if they can’t relate to doing what you do or once did. If they are busy thinking they can’t possibly be as good as you, your power to develop them has just gone out the window.
The ego you hold onto as a leader will become the barrier between you and continued team growth, development and loyalty. A leader whose ego requires a cape and a crown won’t be able to ask for help, make a mistake, listen to the opinions of others and will eventually deal with significant staff turnover, in a nutshell.
Those who report to you are looking to see if you’ve ever been in their shoes, if you hold them as a high priority, if you’ll have their back, and if your focus is on the outcomes of the team. If you are spending time mending a cape and polishing a crown that time could instead be spent building trust and reassuring the team of your motives and desire to focus on what they need.
It’s true, so many leaders are those who learned that being a manager who was promoted, but not prepared, and who’s ego barely fit in the crown they wanted to wear, was not the best laid plan. In fact, the most powerful and positively contagious leaders have long ago abandoned their cape and crown in exchange for the sound of encouraging words, meaningful questions, challenging goals, clear direction, continued support and the applause of a team achieving its goal. What might you set down or leave behind to help you grow as a leader? What skill might you begin to polish instead of that crown?
Monica Wofford, MBA, CSP, is an international speaker, trainer, and author who helps managers who were promoted, actually become prepared to lead.