You are the leader, act like it

If there is one thing everyone hates, it is a leader who claims to be still “one of the pack”. Is that you? If yes, you have to stop doing this. Now. I mean it. You need to accept this one important truth: Your times as part of the pack are over.

And don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean: Be a mean Steve Job/Elon Musk kinda girl now putting other people down. No. You can, and should!, be thoughtful, kind and fair to your team members.

What I mean: Your team now looks up to you to guide them. Or as others might say: to lead. It even is in the title “leader”, you dummy.

The times for democratic consensus building is over. Yes, get opinions of your team members, ask the experts on a topic…but in the end it is YOUR decision. This is what you are paid for (a lot I hope, it is a hard job). You decide and lead the way.

If this decisions sucks, then YOU will have to explain it to your boss/shareholders/customers. And don’t you dare to blame any of your team members for a failed project. It is your fault if a decision was bad, a project did fail or team members fleeing. It all comes down to your decisions and capabilities to lead.

You have a team member who doesn’t perform? Give them clearer guidance (micromanage them, as some would say). Find how to incentivize them. Or let them go.

The project is behind schedule? Test if your initial schedule made sense, If yes: Find out why you are lacking behind. This can have all kinds of reasons: Your team being under-staffed. A lot of unknown unknowns that arose. Or the most common one, your team not putting in the work as they don’t know how important it is. The project is not important? Then, I would say, adapt your schedule.

These are only two of so many things you will experience. And it never – let me emphasize this – NEVER is a solution to dilute the responsibility onto your team. You will lose trust from your team if you do that. They see you making bad decisions, but then letting others cover them up.

Nevertheless, give your team members’ responsibility, ownership and the power to decide within their own part of the project. It helps to keep driven people around and also to not go insane yourself. You can’t have everything in your mind all the time. But ultimately, if that part of the project that you handed out fails…guess what, it is your fault.

Being a leader – “the boss” – is not easy, and to be frank, not everyone should be one. That is okay. No shame in that. Also, you will make mistakes while growing into this role. There will be nights where you sleep like shit, times when you don’t eat well and can’t make your family dinners. But in the end it is satisfying to take a decision, pull it through with your team and see how much leverage you have in driving things forward.

All this will only work if you accept the truth: For being a leader, you need to leave the pack and actually lead.

Be the first one to venture into a direction, and the one who collects all leftovers. Accept the loneliness that comes with it, and the pressure that decisions put on you. Be the backup of your team, and feel the rush of not having any backup for you.

Being a leader is hard. But it’s worth it.

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