Do you want to be on the leadership team? (Or do you just want to wear the jersey?)

Musing for:

Do you want to be on the leadership team?

“Steve, it’s only fair to let you know this. I never cut anyone from my soccer team, and you’ll be able to wear a jersey and sit on the bench, but you probably won’t get much time on the field.”

That was not what I wanted to hear after soccer tryouts in my senior year of high school.

I wanted to be an active team player. I had even practiced dribbling a soccer ball over the summer (a couple of times, at least).

Not because I enjoyed soccer. What I wanted was the prestige that came from representing my school.

But those who earned time on the field were those who loved the sport. They were committed to becoming the best players they could be.

I’ve seen the same phenomenon in business. Are you looking to advance in your leadership role? If so, why?

I’ve heard reasons that don’t bode well for success:

⛔ “I want to earn more money.”

While management roles often do pay better than many technical roles they lead, that’s not always the case. I’ve often managed people who earned more than I did. And because you’ll be starting over with a completely new career, you likely won’t be as good at management as you are at your technical role. Your next salary increase may actually be a lower percentage raise than you’re used to.

⛔ “I want to earn the respect of my family or social connections.”

Countless people have embarked on a career path to please others, only to find it unfulfilling. Without self-respect, you won’t find what you’re looking for in the apparent respect of others.

⛔ “If I’m in charge, people will finally do what I say.”

You have three ways to influence the behavior of others:

  1. role power
  2. expertise power
  3. relationship power

And the strength of role power is inversely proportional to how often you use it. If you’re not developing your relationship power, you’ll soon run out of the other two, and being in charge will just be an illusion. You’ll just be wearing the jersey.

✅ But if you love collaborating, building relationships, and helping other people grow, change, and succeed, then you’ll likely become the person who will succeed in management.

Before you consider a management career, learn to love the sport.

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