There is a secret that high achieving, driven leaders often miss. Want to know what it is? It’s not obvious. Many leaders never see it. You can go your whole career and miss it entirely. What is it? The secret is understanding the distinction between performing and leading.
I’m an ENTJ personality type and as 16Personalities.com says, “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement.” I couldn’t agree more! My to-do lists have to-do lists. Because I’ve thrived on personal performance from a very young age, I’ve been in leadership positions my whole life. But only recently have I discovered what real leadership is all about. Leadership is using your influence to move someone from where they are to somewhere better. You might be in a leadership position, but if you’re not influencing people, you’re not leading. You might be someone’s boss, but if you aren’t helping them move somewhere better, you’re a leader by title only.
Is a being a high performer a bad thing? Absolutely not!! Every organization needs as many top performers as they can get. An orchestra needs a soloist (performer), or they will be boring. But they also need a conductor (leader) to provide direction, coordination, and feedback. Is the soloist more important than the conductor? Is the conductor more important than the soloist? No! But they play different roles in the performance.
However, a common mistake to look at a high performer and think they will automatically be an effective a leader. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Why the Most Productive People Don’t Always Make the Best Managers,” Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman write that high performers, “leverage individual skills and individual effectiveness,” while great managers “are much more other-focused.” (Their emphasis) Leadership is about measuring your personal performance by your team’s performance. Their achievement is your achievement.
Can high performers become leaders?
- You can switch your mindset from seeing your performance as the measure of your success to seeing your team’s performance as the measure of your success.
- You can believe the people you lead can grow/change. Whether they are willing to grow/change is another question, but if you think people are static and unchanging, you’ll never try and lead them somewhere better.
- You can allocate the time to invest in growing your people. Tasks always seem easier than people. It’s so satisfying to my soul to check off an item on my to-do list, and people are often WAY more complicated. But they are worth the investment. People are always the point of leadership.
- You are willing to grow/change yourself. No one is born a level 5 leader. It takes years of experience and reflection and luck to gain the wisdom and skills of a world-class leader. But if you’re willing to grow yourself, who knows what your leadership capacity might be?!?
So, who will make the best sales manager, the top sales rep? Will the most talented surgeon make the best hospital administrator? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on whether they can invest in and influence others to the same degree they were able to win new business or save lives in the operating theater.
What do you think high performers need to learn to become high performing leaders?