How to Scale Your Leadership Style


I was recently asked how I think about scaling leadership.

To answer the question, I first need to share my view of leadership, which is grounded in the belief that it is not a leader’s job to put greatness into people. But rather, it is our job to acknowledge the greatness that already exists and create opportunities and an environment for that greatness to come out.

So as your organization grows in size and complexity, how do you move from being a personal trainer where it's one-on-one training for a small team of employees, to someone who can have an impact across a large group of people and advance the capability of the entire group? From my experience, this requires three techniques:

Your ability to create focus. A leader should strive to paint an inspiring vision. Most people don't want to run from something, but rather they seek to run to something. As individuals, we want to be a part of something greater than themselves. A leader should paint this inspiring vision, and then articulate the priorities to help help people know how to make progress against that vision.

Your interactions should produce the three E’s. The second thing I believe underpins scaling leadership is your interaction model. My view is the outcomes a scalable leader should create in every interaction is the three E's:

  • Energize: You should leave people with their hearts beating faster. This does not mean always being a cheerleader. In fact, constructive feedback and course adjustments can be equally stimulating if they are delivered in the form of coaching, versus judging. Seek to energize in every interaction.
  • Educate: Leave every encounter with the team having learned at least one thing they didn’t know (or had not realized) before you met with them. You should also seek to learn at least one thing you didn’t know as well. Scalable leaders use every opportunity to learn and to teach.
  • Empower: Scalable leaders measure success, not by what happened in the meeting, but how capable the team is able to execute without them after they leave the room. Did you build capability during the interaction?

The secret to the three E's is principles-based decision making. Bring your coaching to the level of guiding principles. That way, the next time a team faces a similar situation they can refer to the principles as guidelines, and will have a better sense of what to do.

How you invest your time. The third and final piece to scalable leadership is how you choose to invest your time. As leaders, the resources we leverage include time, people, and dollars. We can often find more people and more dollars, but we can never manufacture more time. It is so critical to be very discerning about where you’ll invest your time for two reasons. It is your most scarce resource, so getting the maximum ROI is essential. It is also the strongest signal you can send to a team around what you deem to be the most important.

So to scale your leadership as your organization grows, create focus through an inspiring vision. Be clear about your interaction model and the three E's. And keep a close eye on how you spend your time.

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