Solution Saturday: Tiger Without Sexy Stripes
I need some development help.
I am told I influence people, but I am not technically a leader. I am middle management on a team of 10. One of the newer members.
I was told in my review last week that I have such influence, I need to be careful with that power, to advance further in my career.
Let’s dispense with the notion I got told to “dance”, fundamentally I did, but I want to grow for me. I heard this analogy in my younger sporting life, that I need to use “my powers for good”.
My challenge is, if I am not the Captain, why am I expected to act like the captain? I want to address this and develop, as I am apparently a tiger, without the sexy stripes!
Tiger Without Sex Stripes
Dear Tiger Without Sexy Stripes,
Congratulations on earning the respect of others.
Some might be uncomfortable with your use of power, but I am not. Power is neither good nor bad. Power used in service to others is good. No one aspires to be powerless.
I wonder if power in this context is about charisma? If so, your passion to develop yourself is essential. Charisma – apart from character and practical know how – is a disaster.
Here are my suggestions.
#1. Develop self-awareness.
There seems to be a disconnect between how others see you and how you see yourself. This is common in leadership.
- Invite feedback about power. You learn to see yourself when others tell you what they see in you. (Even when they are off base, the exercise is useful.) When you’re told you have power ask:
- What makes you say I have power?
- What do you see me doing when I’m acting powerfully?
- How might I use my power in service to others?
- Connect your story with a personal vision for your leadership. How do your values connect to your story. What events formed your character? Read:
- “On Becoming a Leader,” by Warren Bennis
- “Discover Your True North,” by Bill George.
- “The Art of Authenticity,” by Karissa Thacker.
- Take personality, character, and strength assessments. My personal coach, Bob Hancox, delivers an assessment I found helpful called PRO Development.
- Deliver great results and reflect on what fueled or drained your energy.
#2. Clarify what you want for yourself.
You wrote, “My challenge is, if I am not the captain, why am I expected to act like the captain?” I could be off base, but I sense some inner conflict between what others want for you and what you want for yourself.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the expectations of others. I’m not encouraging you to become cold-hearted or ignore the expectations of others.
Self-awareness will help you clarify what you want.
#3. Define leadership.
- What does becoming a leader mean to you?
- What is leadership from your point of view?
- What do leaders do?
A clear picture of the leader you hope to become guides the process of development.
You might find it useful to shift your language from captain to servant. Servant-leadership has broad application that even captains can embrace.
#4. Fulfill the position before earning the position.
Everyone who earns positional leadership fulfills the role before receiving the position. The “stripes” of leadership confirm your leadership. They don’t make you a leader.
Have you ever heard someone say, “This isn’t my job. Why am I doing it?” Leaders who earn opportunities are always fulfilling jobs they don’t have yet.
Live beyond your job description, if you hope to earn the next position.
#5. Three bonus tips:
- Build relationships with coaches and mentors.
- Read broadly.
- Take on new challenges.
I’m thankful for your email.
You have my best for the journey,
What suggestions do you have for Tiger Without Stripes?
What has helped you develop your own leadership?
*I relax my 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.
Thanks for the blog, Dan. Is it possible that our tiger is heading in his own direction? As a team leader, we should try to find out the reason for the tiger’s positioning, and see what part of that path could, or should, be incorporated into the vision for the group. People with personal power stand out. The question is, are they standing alone or with others?
Thanks Donna, I can see where warnings to be careful how one uses her power might indicate some misuse. You left some great food for thought.
(I should have indicated that Tiger is female.)
Dan a couple thoughts on this one
1. People hate voids. His Team of 10 to me is probably too large or diverse for the current Manager to deal with. So people look to fill that void.
2. Really liked your idea to earn the job by doing it and then others will recognize and promote him. Too many people only manage Up the organization but true Leaders get pushed up by those at their level or below them. That has happened to me.
3. As much some of us would like to believe that everyone strives to become a Leader, as Ann Rand implied most people still want others to make a lot of the tough decisions!
Brad James, author The Business Zoo
Thanks Brad. I’m glad you joined in on today’s conversation. “Getting pushed up,” is a fascinating and important idea. Where are you being pushed, may be a useful indicator of your future. How do we grow comfortable when that happens? Should we pursue what others see in us? Thanks again.
I attended a program at Stanford GSB called Leadership and the Effective Use of Power; it was practical, engaging and beneficial. Many universities offer exec programs and they can be a valuable part of any leadership training arsenal.
Thanks Brad. A proven training program can make a huge difference. Great suggestion.
Overall, GREAT! But as people have shared, there are some warning buzzes. It is about being congruent with the goals and all that and making the people around you feel good and supported. That nail that sticks up DOES get hammered down in many corporate cultures, so being able to connect with other players of power is a good idea.
I think a LOT of this depends on the reality of the corporate culture. But all the recommendations made are solid ones. Look for opportunities to move laterally, maybe, so as to not get in the career path of the immediate boss. And the real reality of the workplace these days is to simply look for another job where you can carry these components forward and without all the “internal baggage” that probably exists now amongst the team(s).
The only real way to get salary increases is to change jobs. There are more than a few studies out there that show it conclusively. But, if the current job fit is good, and it sounds like it is, there IS good advice in this thread to rock and roll.
Thanks Dr. Scott. Your suggestion to connect is powerful. Connection helps us navigate the challenge of standing out and staying grounded at the same time.
WOW I could have wrote that letter. I have always enjoyed stepping up, doing more, filling the void. I get asked why I do it. I often don’t get extra pay and some even take it as a threat when I try to help. But I see something that has to be done and I prefer to do it myself then to take the chance it may not be done or done wrong. No I am not a control freak, just picky about things being done right. Yep some of my co-workers would disagree but they are the same ones that say “I wont do the anything extra unless they pay me extra”. Yep go team me. By stepping up and doing more then you have to know it does not go unnoticed. As for being a leader, there is no greater challenge then to lead without the power that comes from the position. To have people follow you out of respect is the greatest accomplishment. Those who depend on positional power will never have the respect of their team.
Thanks Walt. Your last sentence is a real kick in the pants. Depending on positional power while neglecting relationships is a sure fire way to short-circuit our influence. Very powerful.
I’m likely further down life’s road than your question submission writer.. if I could do my “mid-years” over I would have clarified my own goals more rigorously, and communicated those goals.. not being pushy, but seeking a more active alignment with my bosses.
Thanks Ken. Most of us have a surprising ability to work very hard and not be clear on what we want. It’s a real gift when someone throws us a rope, pulls us out of the weeds, and helps us find our bearings. Thanks for you insight.
Great post with sound advice all around, and great comments as well. During my career, I came to recognize that many people have more significant leadership abilities than they realize, along with the obvious folks who perceive themselves as great leaders when they are not. Your advice on developing self-awareness is key. An individual cannot wait on their organization to recognize their abilities and potential when “their light is hidden under a bushel.” I never had a talent for self-promotion like many of my peers, and my career languished behind others for a time until I had established my bosses’ knowledge of my talents and abilities by being a dependable “work horse” rather than a “show horse.” I wish Tiger all the best!
Thanks Jim. You wrote that you became known as, “…a dependable “work horse” rather than a “show horse.'” Nothing like a person who can get the job done, day in and day out. I think we might worry too much about getting ahead and too little about getting the job done.
Having said that, it’s possible to be a heads-down worker and get lost in the shuffle. Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s, learned the lesson that you have to network as well as do hard work in some organizations.
A few thoughts: It has been my experience that the disconnect in how people see themselves versus how others see them is a long-term work in progress, but so worth the time and energy. Reading widely helps, as does becoming aware of the verbal and nonverbal feedback people are always providing…we just have to know how to listen.
Also, I think many people are leaders, even if they don’t hold the title/position…I’m of the camp that believes that leadership can be developed an almost anyone, and in a variety of arenas.
Thank you for another great post!