Flexing the Leadership Muscle

On the path to my current position, I’ve been lucky enough to manage some amazing people. For awhile, it seemed like we were in the zone, and using the leadership skills I taught was second nature. It was easy to slip into “manager mode”, coach an employee or deal with a larger issue, and then move on.

Since that time, I’ve moved away from managing larger teams or not managing any direct reports at all, and I have found that it can be more difficult to slip into “manager mode”, requiring more forethought and even more follow-up (e.g., “what I should have said was…”). This apparent atrophying of my leadership muscle was a bit surprising – after all, I train this stuff!  How hard can it be to get back on that bike?

It’s been eye-opening to be reminded that “training” is in no way the same as “doing”.  So what are some ways to keep that leadership muscle toned?

  • Seek out opportunities: If you haven’t been managing people for a while or if you aren’t managing a large team, find other ways to reach out and coach people.  You can act as a mentor, coach a coworker or dotted line report who is looking for help, or act as a sounding board for people dealing with employee issues of their own.
  • Keep up on the latest techniques: There are a lot of excellent articles, blogs, and books out there on the latest and greatest leadership techniques. (Here’s my reading list)  Keep your skills current by learning from others.
  • Admit you may be rusty: Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that it’s been awhile, so be more present in the moment and more mindful in your choices when you DO have a chance to manage again.

When all else fails, I remember how much I enjoy leading and developing others – it’s amazing how much that can recharge the batteries!

So what are your ideas for flexing the leadership muscle?  Share below!

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