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Transitioning to the Leader You Need to Be

November 20, 2015

The other day, I had a conversation with a manager that I was coaching.  He has been struggling with the fact that he is an individual contributor in a leadership role.

This particular manager had received feedback that he was controlling, overbearing, micro-managing and has a temper.  After multiple conversations with him, experiencing the workplace culture, interviewing employees and observing his team, I can say there is a kernel of truth in that feedback.  However, I can also say it is somewhat exaggerated.  He is a good individual struggling to transition into the leader he needs to be.

This is a common challenge and trap that many people transitioning into leadership roles find themselves in and they don’t even recognize it.  I had a great opportunity to play it back to him during one of our coaching sessions.

He brought up an example of a joke someone made regarding his age.  He has been working for a while and is on the older side. The joke was received well by the younger staff, but it bothered him. It bothered him enough to come talk to me about it.  He said something very interesting and telling.  He said, “Brad, if I said something like that, if I made a comment about someone’s age, gender, anything about them that was personal in nature people would say I was biased.  People would be angry.  They would say it is inappropriate.  They would complain about me.  That’s a double standard.  Why can an individual do it and I can’t?"

The first thing I said was, “I cannot condone that behavior for anyone.  I know it was a joke and I also know that if you do not know people well when you make those jokes, you can offend someone, but I also told him that I don’t think there’s a double standard.”  He said, “How can you say that? There’s a different standard for me than for them.”

I said, “That’s right. It’s not a double standard --it’s a different standard. It’s a higher standard because you are a leader in the organization.” 

Until we recognize that the expectations of leaders are not only different than the expectations that we have for employees, but that the expectations are also higher, we will always struggle to be the leader we need to be.  We are being paid to be the role model.  We are being paid to connect to people, connect people to each other and to the organization.  As leaders we are being paid to coach and grow, to motivate and inspire.

We are always going to be held to a higher standard and as a leader, we must remember that.