For more than 30 years, I’ve been teaching managers to become leaders.
The one lesson I’ve learned over these many decades is that this is a tough sell for most people. Sure, the participants in my workshops go through the motions by completing the exercises and attending to the concepts.
But, in their heart of hearts, the transition from manager to leader is just too much of a stretch for some reason.
I’m beginning this blog because I’m looking for another medium to help individuals like you make this important transition. Where are you now professionally, and how do you take the next step to be a leader who makes an impact?
Most of my workshops focus on how to communicate like a leader. First, I always ask participants via structured exercises to reflect on their communication style and explore whether it enables them to make the transition.
My most recent business book, Critical Conversations as Leadership probes the far reaches of the reader’s communication skills.
Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that a person must communicate like a leader to convince colleagues that he or she can do the job. But the ability to go from theory to practice—to actually jump into the leader role and play the Leader Card – rests on one simple assumption: The person wants to be a leader and has embraced the leader identity.
“The ability to go from theory to practice … rests on one simple assumption: The person wants to be a leader and has embraced the leader identity.”
While I have long known that becoming a leader rests first and foremost on embracing the leader identity, it became even clearer when I read a recent study on the subject.
In a 2016 article in the Journal of Research in Leadership Education, Cynthia Carver found that teachers won’t make the move to become leaders unless they learn to transform their entire professional identity and see themselves as leaders. Her research found that the transformation required a two-year period of intensive study and reflection.
The point of this important research is that personal and professional growth in becoming a leader requires first seeing one’s self as a leader. It means embracing the identity.
People can take all the courses they want and learn the important skills. But unless we WANT to see ourselves as leaders, and accept all the risks and potential rewards of that huge transformation, it just won’t happen.
Over the next several months I’ll explore the full range of issues related to making this transition from manager to leader. We’ll focus on such topics as the Leadership Identity, Leadership Thinking Styles, and Developing the Leader Card.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading these posts as much as I will enjoy writing them.
Bill Donohue, September, 2018