One of the great joys I have found in leading people and teams over the years is walking with team members who are interested in growing their influence. In these encounters, I’ve had the chance to hear about their motivations for doing so. In many cases, it comes from someone with a healthy view who is interested in better stewarding their gifts or joining the organization’s mission at a deeper level. I’ve seen other instances where someone had motivations that were misplaced; either feeling pressured to move toward roles they weren’t sure they wanted, or even wanting more power and control.

In the prior blog, we looked at three of these questionable motivations to get into a leadership role. Whether your motivations are properly placed or not, there will always be surprises in store for those moving into leadership roles. These aren’t necessarily good or bad surprises, they more amount to dynamics that tend to become your new “normal” as your influence grows. Let’s take a look at three of these.

  1. You will be broader over deeper. People often wish to take on leadership roles because they want to go deeper into the organization. It is true the opportunity will likely present itself to be more engaged with the “inner workings” of an organization. However, what can surprise new leaders is they quickly become less involved and more removed from the day-to-day. It’s often counter-intuitive as generally, one has more opportunity for leadership roles with more specialization. However, to lead a team one has to pull the lens back to achieve general awareness about the work and allow team members to do deep dives. The foundation of this is trust. If a leader can’t trust their team members to become experts in their individual roles, then the leader will fall into micromanaging the team. Time is finite and one simply can’t do both their role and everyone else’s as well. This is the first major tripping point I’ve seen in new leaders. They must let go of some of the things they love to fully carry out the duties of their new role. They must stay at an informed and broader level while trusting the team members to the detailed work.
  2. Someone is likely always upset with you, but everyone wants to be liked; it’s important to our identity, as is our work. These two areas become intrinsically tied together and, if not managed, can affect a leader’s satisfaction with their role. Being the leader will mean it is your responsibility to make decisions that affect the team. In most decisions, there are outcomes that create opportunities for some and make the work more challenging for others. Another key tripping point I’ve seen in new leaders is making decisions on what’s going to be popular with the team over what is best for the work. It is an essential part of the leader’s role to improve the work. The level of information and context a leader has will guide decisions that sometimes don’t make sense with the information a team member might have. While clear communication can help with this, in some cases, there will be many instances when the leader is not at liberty to share all the information they know. The team simply must trust the leader. This is a reality every leader will face regularly, so the leader must work to build trust with the team. If you can’t live with this tension, team members may be frustrated or upset with you, and a leadership role is not for you.
  3. You will, at times, be isolated and possibly lonely. Probably the most common remark I’ve heard from new leaders after a few months in the role is that they feel isolated and even a bit lonely. This can be true if they had rich team member relationships before they entered the new role. The fact is, you will be, for better or worse, seen differently. People will be more guarded and likely share less. This is why every leader must be proactive in building relationships and asking good questions about the work. It’s not that team members won’t tell you their thoughts and opinions anymore, you just have to seek them out and receive them with genuine interest. Even with all these dynamics in place, there will be times when you do feel isolated. Seeking out and building relationships with peers in similar positions in the organization or your greater network becomes a vital tool for keeping strong human connections.

With every new work role, there will be unexpected dynamics. This should not dissuade you from considering a leadership role. Instead, we all must be flexible and adaptable as we grow in our roles. Being aware of the above dynamics ideally can help you think through if the move toward a leadership role is something you want or not as part of your professional life.