Leading at the Top

To be an executive, your skills and practices change to adapt to the situation you have in front of you. By working with many executives, I have learned the following: those who quickly see the need to let go of and shed the skills and practices that led them to the position, for that of new skills, tend to be more successful, faster.

The longer an executive holds onto the skills and practices they had, the more they hold back those who report to them and those around them. Having gone through this myself, I was not in the first group of quickly seeing what I had to let go of – I took the tougher role. Luckily, I was assigned a coach and a mentor to help me move past making things hard for myself and others. That learning has been foundational in coaching other executives to move swiftly to their place of most potential.

Here are a few tips that have worked for executives who are open to growth:

1. Let go of the how and focus on the what – it is not your job to design how to make things happen, it is your job to define where you are going, why you are going there, and what needs to be accomplished.

2. Delegate control and decision making as quickly as possible – provide clear needs, resources, timelines, and outcomes to ensure success.

3. Remove seeking permission – if people are not taking initiative and morale is low, it means they cannot do what they think is right to achieve the goals. Not everything has to be your idea or approved by you. Wherever you can, remove permission seeking to open up initiative and engagement.

4. Be selective on your input – not everything requires your input and engagement. If you are presented something and it is not exactly perfect, that is okay. If you see something that could be a huge problem, ask them what their thoughts are on it and what are their plans to address it.

5. You don’t have to know everything – let your team run with ideas even when you don’t understand it yourself. They will make mistakes and you would have made mistakes as well if you got engaged. You have to ask yourself – must you experience everything so you can lead and manage it? Are you comfortable with the learning cycle?

6. Let people grow – don’t forget your path to where you are today. You made mistakes, failed and learned. It is in the uncomfortableness of work and life that people have the most growth. If you make everyone comfortable, then they never have the opportunity to stretch and grow to truly build the muscle of resourcefulness, resiliency, adaptability and humbleness.

To lead at the top, you have to let go and be uncomfortable so others can grow.