Where you are in your career has a significant impact on your perspective. The perspective shift can occur due to time and distance from an event or experience, the maturity that comes with age, or role changes.
The move from individual contributor to manager, as well as the increased responsibility of more senior leadership positions, each shift our lens – our awareness – of what is going on around us.
When we start out, our work may seem challenging but manageable. However, as we move up and have more responsibility, we start to see the near misses. Maybe see that the ground we thought was solid beneath us, has hazards below.
The Leader’s Perspective
As leaders, we see it all. The tight rope the entire team has to walk together, balancing progress against risk. The one that looks like solid footing to the uninitiated, because as leaders, we’re smoothing the way.
We see the bombs dropping around us and the circling sharks below. Our team moves forward unaware, because we are providing air cover above and a safety net below.
The higher we go, the more we are expected to operate without a net. To realize when we are leaning hard to the right and self-correct. To dodge bombs we may not know are coming, with no air cover.
It’s Never that Easy
As we gain perspective, it is possible to look back and see how those “easier” days were no more easy.
No matter the role, there are last-minute deadlines, mistakes that can derail the team’s efforts, and any number of challenges. If it feels manageable, it is likely due to an insightful leader who provides the team with air cover and a safety net.
Sometimes work can be overwhelmingly challenging and scary, preventing a team from moving forward out of fear of falling. Looking around, there is likely no one providing support. The team realizes they are on shaky ground and they won’t bounce if they fall.
That’s the difference a great leader can make.
The Leadership Difference
When we know we have air cover and a safety net, we push harder. We take more risk and stretch ourselves. Either because we are oblivious to the dangers around us, or because we know we are supported.
As leaders, our job is not to worry about our own safety and air cover. If we focus on our people, taking care of them, we will naturally be covered.
When teams can safely take risk, stretch and learn from failure, they produce greater results. Results go a long way in providing their own form of air cover.
Rinse and Repeat
It is only by realizing the support we have that we can learn from it. If we see it, we can repeat it. We can model it for others.
Looking around, if you don’t see any bombs falling or any sharks circling below, you probably have a leader behind you, carrying an umbrella and a net – for you and those around you. Doing their best to balance while looking out for the team.
If we are lucky, no matter how high we rise, there is someone nearby willing to lend a hand or share potential dangers. If we are smart, no matter how high we rise, we will to do the same for others.
Do you remember the support you had in your early roles? Did it make a difference to your success or to the kind of leader you want(ed) to be? Please share your experience in the comments and keep the conversation going.