Originally published in American City Business Journals
By Scott Miller
So, you have your first offer of a management position at your company. You are thrilled and excited.
Of course you should take it. It’s a step up, right?
Well, actually … maybe not.
Here are some things they won’t tell you about leadership when you are offered that role. It might mean getting saddled with lots of paperwork — everything from expense reports to long-form performance reviews. It might mean you have to someday tell someone to wear deodorant. It might even mean you will suddenly go from being the most popular person and best performer at your job to being someone that people whisper about in the secluded corners of the office.
Here are 5 pieces of conventional wisdom you’ll want to challenge if you take the leap:
1) Leadership is the next rung on the career ladder
Leadership is not the next natural rung on everyone’s career ladder. It is, in fact, a vastly different career choice representing an entirely different ladder.
Many of the skills that worked for you as an individual contributor will work against you in a leadership role, like a zero-sum sense of competition, the pressing need for individual recognition, or the “I can do it all on my own” mindset.
The move to leadership is actually a dangerous transition, not just for your team members, but for your own career, brand, and reputation. I’ve witnessed too many highly-successful people take on leadership positions only to fail then face the added humiliation of stepping back down, or worse, stepping out of the organization. So ask questions and find out about your support network.
2) Wander in the leadership desert and you’ll figure it all out
Research by the Harvard Business Review showed that on average, people step into their first leadership position at age 30, but they don’t receive leadership training until 42. That’s an astonishing 12 years of just wandering in the desert. This is when the damage is done, often to unsuspecting team members who have their self-esteem, confidence, and engagement eviscerated by well-intended but unskilled leaders.
Be sure to ask about the commitment to training and mentoring if you take the leap.
3) Coaching means creating clones
Too often leaders think their job is to make everyone else successful the best way they know how: by cloning themselves. It worked for me, so it will work for you. Do as I do and we’ll have no problems working together.
Be intentional in determining just why you are being selected for this opportunity. If it doesn’t feel like they really know and value who you are and what you bring to the table, you might want to pass.
4) Leading means sheltering others from hard truths
Often the most challenging and neglected leadership skill is stepping up to difficult conversations and talking straight with people. You may think your job is to withhold critical facts or spin tricky messaging, but the truth will get out eventually and your credibility will take the hit.
This doesn’t mean you have a license to just start “telling it like it is.” Rather, leaders must learn and practice the art of balancing courage and consideration.
5) Leadership is a reward with an immediate return
You may think all your hard work and effort has paid off and you’re now being rewarded with a leadership position. But leadership is not day-trading, posh-marking or house-flipping. There is little immediate return, and in many ways it’s like starting over.
I liken it more to your parents’ home appreciation: they bought it 30 years ago for $24,000 and now it’s worth $600,000. Leadership is investing for the long term, so don’t expect to be appreciated any time soon. If you do you will be disappointed and frustrated. Constantly. Sometimes you don’t learn the real impact of your leadership until that departure or retirement dinner.
Leadership is a choice. Often the lofty language used to promote and sell leadership doesn’t include a map for success. We can all benefit from a little straight talk about not only what leadership should accomplish, but the dangerous pitfalls lying in wait along the way.
Scott Miller serves as FranklinCovey’s executive vice president of thought leadership and is the author of “Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to become the Leader You Would Follow.”