Did you ever feel trapped, suffocated or under-utilized because your personal leadership capacity was higher than that of your direct leader?
This happens, just ask anyone under my lead.
Take a look at John Maxwell’s ’5 Levels of Leadership’ chart below to better understand what we’re referring to.
Now, like a lot of things this is a lot more of an art than a science. So there is no formula for at least two reasons:
1. Because every individual is unique.
2. It will change things slightly depending on which exact level you are on and which exact level your leader is on. (For example if you’re a level 3 leader and your leader is a level 1 leader your situation may be different than a level 5 leader working under a level 2 leader). Clear?
I got to thinking about this issue a couple weeks ago when someone mentioned they were working under a leader that was 2 levels below what they were.
It reminded me of myself at 19, except I was in the other shoes. In one particular situation I was a level 1 leader leading someone that was several levels above me.
There were bumps in that road for sure.
Fortunately a lot of lessons were learned fairly quickly, and we were able to move on.
So these 10 action steps are derived from both sides of the equation, how you would want to be treated if you were the more immature leader and how you should treat the more immature leader if you happen to be the more mature one.
Here are 10 things to try if your leadership is more developed than your leader’s:
1. Be Patient.
I know it’s obvious and I know you don’t want to hear it. But a little patience can go a long way.
2. Develop Yourself.
Sometimes we can get so consumed with other people’s problems we forget to develop ourselves. Take care to keep growing yourself.
3. Fill the Gap.
Proud, self-centered & immature leaders will constantly try to expose the weaknesses of their leader. Do not do this. Offer whatever help, encouragement and assistance you can, this is your duty.
4. Grow Him.
Loan him the occasional book, article or advice. Be appropriate of course. While there are exceptions most people do want to excel and grow, sometimes it’s just a matter of knowing how.
5. Be a Team Player.
Be the best team player you can be, shine in your corner. Sometimes all you can do is all you can do.
6. Go to His Leader.
If your leader has a leader he reports to, which is likely, consider talking with him privately. After all, if I was the ‘top leader’ in that example I would want to know if you have suggestions to grow my leadership team. Be humble, undemanding and understanding. There is no need to mention the fact that you consider your leadership to be at a higher level than your direct leader, you simply need to offer suggestions on how your leader could be grown.
7. Talk Straight.
If there’s no improvement after you talk to his leader it may be time to talk directly with him. Do this one on one and with a good attitude. Be positive and objective yet specific. No one is served if you leave him wondering what you were trying to say.
8. Wait Again.
There’s really no better way to put this. Some things just take time.
9. Assess the Risk.
If there’s still no forward movement it’s time to think seriously about what’s at stake. Are you sacrificing your personal development on the altar of your comfort zone? Change can require you to step outside your comfort zone but improvement always requires change.
10. Move On or Don’t.
At this point you will have decided if there is any hope for improvement in your situation. Based on that knowledge you may decide to move on or you may decide to stay. If you stay you need to apply yourself and be able to look beyond the shortcomings of your leader. If you move on do so quickly, quietly & respectfully.
Keep in mind that John Maxwell says you’re on different levels with different people simultaneously. While it does make things more complex it stands to reason. To John Doe you may be a level 3 leader while to Suzy Q you may be a level 5 leader. This makes it all the more important to be as self-aware as possible and communicate well with everyone you’re leading.
Working under a leader who’s leadership is less developed than yours can be awkward but it can be done, at least for a time and in most cases.
Question: Have you ever been in a situation like this? What have you learned? Comment below!
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