Ask Jo: The Scariest Thing About Becoming a Leader

Question: “What is the scariest thing about becoming a leader that you only find out once you are in a position of leadership – and what you can do to grow in that area.” – HR Advisor

Answer: Great question! From having had many conversations with women who have made it into the ranks of senior leadership, I think it boils down to making the leap from doing to leading. It’s letting go of being the expert, letting go of being in control, and of being the one to “just do it.”

In short, it’s not about you anymore! It’s all about the team.

So what can make this an easier, less scary transition to navigate? Here are three ways to do just that: 

1.) Learn from the best 

For starters, find a few leaders who do this well, and watch how they conduct themselves, how they treat their people, how they delegate authority, and how they trust them. Watch how they respond to situations where you might be tempted to dive in and fix things yourself.

Liz Brenner, VP of Human Resources with SAP, says “My best managers trusted me to get my work done. They didn’t come knocking each day to check my work or make sure I was at my desk during certain hours. Trust your people,” Brenner advises, “ unless they give you reason not to.” 

2.) Build a circle of trust

And whatever level you’re currently at in your career, go out of your way to surround yourself with great people. Find people whose strengths complement your own, who you feel supportive of and who you can lean on in a pinch. Experience what it’s like to be a part of a team with high trust. 

3.) Get comfortable leading from the sidelines

Finally, learn to lead from a distance. As Hallmark’s VP of Multicultural Strategy, Tara Jaye Frank, has observed, the best leaders know when to let go. Frank says, “… leading from the sidelines has its place. If we want to enable meaningful contributions from all and maximize our talent, it’s important we find that place…and learn to occupy it gracefully.”

So that’s the scariest thing about becoming a leader. But perhaps not so scary once you wrap your mind around it, let go of the fear, trust your people, dare them to go for it, and get energized by what you can create together.

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Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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