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7 Joys of Leading From Where You Are

| September 27, 2022

by Brian McDonald

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Brian McDonald, President of MOR Associates.  Brian may be reached at [email protected].]
During the past few weeks, the Tuesday Readings have featured the 7 Hard Truths You Discover as a Leader along with the 7 Joys of Leading. These readings were oriented toward people in more senior roles who have broader spheres of influence. This week the focus is on the 7 Joys of Leading From Where You Are (LFWYA). It is about discovery, about delegating, about exercising self-care and some of the many insights participants in the LFWYA Program have experienced. For many people early in their career, the LFWYA may be one of their first professional development opportunities.
This leads to the first of the 7 joys.
1. Take Joy in Being Invited

Being invited to Lead From Where You Are is an acknowledgement of your value to the organization. It is also an indication your manager and/or other leaders believe in your potential. They are investing in helping you grow your capabilities. The chance to devote time to your development is a gift. The opportunity to build a connection with others with whom you can collaborate or to talk over difficult situations provides you with a closer bond with others. Take a moment to internalize the notion, other people believe in you and are looking forward to seeing you evolve Version 2.0 of you.
2. Having Your Strengths Validated

Another early development in LFWYA is when you receive feedback from others, through a formal 360 feedback report or otherwise. For some individuals this is the first time they have ever had their strengths validated. Knowing what you are good at is an important step in growing your confidence.  As you become more self-assured you are better prepared to leverage your strengths, and this will enable you to perform at a higher level. For Beth, receiving positive feedback was a game-changer encouraging her to speak up and play to her strengths.
3. Stepping Up, Speaking Up, Leading More, Testing Out What’s Possible

As we build our self-assurance this allows us to step out more and play a bigger role as this individual noted in their reflection.
“For the past few months, the Lead From Where You Are Program has been one of the many hydration stations in my marathon. 
From the beginning of the program until now, I’ve felt pushed out of my comfort zone, also observing you all in this cohort grow as I grow alongside you. Beginning this program with excitement in my heart but doubts in my head, I’ve grown to be bolder in the things that I once made every effort to avoid. And while still a work in progress (because there is always room for improvement), I have been pushing myself to step out and do more, speak up more, and to challenge myself to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. “
4. From Individual Contributor to Team Lead

As many people start out in their careers, they rely on their ability to get things done. Being able to solve problems, fix what’s broken, check items off the to-do list are sources of satisfaction. These actions are acknowledged as the signs of a capable contributor. It is this self-reliance, this commitment to getting the tasks done, this deeply rooted pattern, that makes it challenging to transition from the strong “doer” to the team lead who may need to coordinate the doing of others. Yet there can be great joy in the discovery that a team lead or manager can begin to rely on others to help get things done. It can be a relief that the work is not all on you. In fact, the better you get at developing others and delegating you may lower your stress level while giving others the opportunity to step up.
Here is one example of how stepping away enable others to step up.
“I knew I was leaving the phone project go-live in the hands of the highly capable team I had grown to trust and depend on in the previous year. What I didn’t anticipate was the emotional, intangible benefit that a simple act of delegation would have on the team. One team member described how grateful he was that we had entrusted such an important task to him. Another shared how positive, almost jovial the atmosphere was in the office on go-live day. With much of the leadership team (including myself) halfway across the country, the engineers and service desk staff responsible for the go-live had all the latitude, space, and autonomy they needed to execute the plan we had designed together without the top brass getting in their way.”

As the anecdote makes clear and as one person wrote in last week, the joy is in “Seeing my team members enjoy their success.” Or as shared by another LFWYA participant, “Elevating others to center stage; seeing them grow and flourish.”

5. New Insights, New Mindset, New Skillset

From the very outset of the LFWYA experience participants are invited to entertain a growth mindset and be open to learning about lots of new areas. For those who are life-long learners, this is like being a kid in a candy store with lots to spend. There are so many discoveries along the way. Whether you want to be better at building relationships or thinking strategically or working with others, there is a buffet of offerings from which to choose.
As one individual commented, “last week’s breakout room exercise was enlightening and helpful. My 360 feedback from others aligned with my own self-assessment that I can clearly (even passionately) express a strategic direction we might pursue. But I could do better at my receptive influence skills to bring others along, by making them feel heard. I don’t think I’m intentionally ignoring others, but I may be too intuitively oriented around expression and need more deliberate practice with reception.”
There is also the joy that comes from helping those who work with you as someone shared from last week.  “Seeing the light bulb come on for other people – coaching them to a breakthrough that’s bigger than an ‘aha’ moment and let’s them get higher up on the balcony.”

There are so many moments where the “aha” can register signaling a new discovery.
6. Now You Can Take a Real Vacation

As one individual recounted
I was part of the group that discussed strategies for wellness and well-being. We all know that this is something that is critically important but also something we often ignore or let slip further down on the priority list. The group noted how bad we all are at unplugging.

I followed the group’s advice. I took a two-week vacation and unplugged. I DELETED the mail and chat apps from my phone. I did not answer or look at email, I did not message my team, I did not text them. They knew to text me if they needed me. I delegated the things that were important and upcoming

They did not need me. They handled things. They got things done. 

So in a nutshell – take the vacation. Unplug. Take care of yourself and let the team do their thing! (And yes, block off a few days when you return to get through your email.)
7. One Joy People Wrote in As a Result of Last Week’s Invitation Was: Bringing About Needed Changes

For one person the joy came in, “Completing long term strategic goals.”
For another individual it was “Creating transformative change.”
Yet another person declared, ”Helping direct change to right past wrongs. However, it is not always a joy in the middle of the change because it is hard, and you are pushing against forces that are sometimes hesitant to change. The joy is at or near the end when the change happens.”
In Closing
The joys of Leading From Where You Are are about discovery, delegation, and exercising self-care in service to bringing about needed change in our organizations.  Regardless of your title or position, please take some time this week to exercise at least one of these joys to more fully lead from where you are, or to enable others to do the same.

This Week’s Survey

When enabling the success of others, what brings you the most joy? 


From Last Week
Last week we asked about your greatest joys in leading from where you are.  THANK YOU for all the thoughtful input.  It was used to help shape this week’s article.  Another common theme from those responses was enabling others to be successful, to enable their thriving, and to help elevate them and ensure they are recognized.  One of the highest forms of leadership is to enable others to lead.  It was inspiring to read the many anecdotes submitted last week that were fundamentally about enabling others to leverage their own leadership potential to its fullest.