Five Tips for Leaders Who Are Betwixt and Between

Posted 10.11.2010

Management-roundtable Every so often, one of my clients will get a promotion to a job where the expectations are so different that it’s not clear to them how they fit in anymore. It’s usually a case where they’re moving from a pretty hands-on, directive leadership role and into a role in which they’re coordinating the work of a number of other leaders. This kind of shift can happen a number of times over a career. As the authors of The Leadership Pipeline point out, the first time is usually when the leader moves from manager to manager of managers. Further up the chain, the transition from business manager to managing a group of businesses is another.

If you’re a leader going through this kind of change, it can feel like you’re betwixt and between. It seems like the people both above and below you are making most of the day to day calls so how do you add value?

As I discuss in The Next Level, I suggest you start by asking yourself this question:

What is it, given the role that I’m in and the unique resources and opportunities that come with it, that only I can do?

Every leader needs to come up with their own answer to that question. That said, there are some tips that apply in most of these betwixt and between situations. Here are five of them:

Be the Coach:  Resist the urge to jump in and do the work. Spend your energy on coaching your leaders to build their capacity to do what needs to be done. Pay attention to their development and results.  Recognize performance. Make changes when necessary.

Be the Bridge: Focus on connecting your group with the larger picture for the organization. Act as a translator and context setter for directives that come from above. 

Be the Face:  Represent your part of the organization to both internal and external stakeholders.  Spend more time listening than talking. Ask open ended questions that help you find out how things are going and where things need to be headed. Share what you learn with your team.

Be the Servant:  Serve the people you lead. Run interference for them. Provide air cover. Secure resources when possible and appropriate. Line up key meetings. Support their overall health and well being.

Be the Strategist:  Develop and communicate an overall picture and plan for your organization.  Involve your leaders in the process. Coach them in developing their own strategies. Make sure the group spends time understanding how the strategies hang together to create the bigger picture. Set expectations that they will support each other’s strategies.

Based on your experience or observation, what other tips do you have for leaders who find themselves betwixt and between?