I’ve worked with several leaders who struggle with the conflict between what they feel like they have to do for the business and what they sincerely enjoy. Sometimes there is even a difference between what the business needs from a leader and the kind of leader they want to become. Let’s face it, leadership is an ambiguous term to many and there are limitless interpretations of what it actually means. Changing how we lead means a certain amount of self-change and that can often be a battle between what we want and what we need. When passion meets reality, choosing the right path can feel a lot like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Sometimes you need change management for yourself.
The real issue revolves around strengths and beliefs. Do the things I think I am good at, and enjoy doing, align with what I believe my business needs to be successful? When the answer to that question is yes, everything feels like it’s on the right track and momentum is on our side. When it becomes no, that’s when we face this inner battle of how to adapt, hire to compensate, or even think about a different business or role.
The challenge has many solutions, and which one is best for you depends on several things:
How big is the gap?
If you are an accountant and you want to become a rock star, the answer becomes pretty obvious but most of the time the gap is smaller and subtler. I am a creative entrepreneur and I need to be more disciplined as the business grows. Or, I am a micro manager and I need to give my people some space to develop and learn from their own mistakes. These kinds of changes can be made with some work, usually some outside assistance such as a coach, and a little time. If the gap is huge though, understand that the change will take longer, require more effort and be difficult to sustain. It can still happen, if the desire is great enough, but the climb will be much steeper.
Am I connected more to the business, or the work?
Am I the person who lives to go out and close a deal, or does the mission of the business I’m in energize me more? Am I more passionate about what I do, or the company I do it for? Both can be present but more often than not, we lean one way or the other. Some entrepreneurs like the thrill of building a business and they are open to building almost any business that is viable. Others have a passion for something in particular like sports, animals or philanthropy and they want to work in that specific world no matter what kind of work they do. If your answer is the mission of the business, you may have enough reason to make the changes in yourself that are needed. If you are driven more by the work itself, the answer probably lies in finding a space where you can focus on what you love to do.
Do I want to make a change, or just think that I should?
The truth is that, for the most part, we become who we want to be. We may want different things long term than we do on a daily basis but we essentially become the things we want more. I want to be in excellent physical condition, or I want to eat these potato chips. One is longer term, but if we want the immediate thing more, we will get it. When we break it down, the reality is that maybe we don’t actually want to be in great shape, especially when we consider all of the work that comes with it; we just think we should be. It can be a subtle difference but either I want to make the transition to a different kind of leader, or I believe that I should, even though I don’t really want to. Belief that you should, without the desire to actually get there, is rarely enough to make sustainable change happen. Ask anyone who smokes. Before embarking on any kind of behavior change, we have to address the want before we address the how.
Before you embark on making a change in how you operate and lead, answer these questions for yourself. Many of us waste a tremendous amount of time because we didn’t stop to find the best path for us before we started rushing down one. Self-change is hard. Being clear about where we are going, why we are going and what it will look like when we get there gives us a much better chance of success. We owe that to our business, those we lead, and ourselves.