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Strong leaders need to become team players

Early in your career, you probably worked as an individual contributor. Life was simple. You focused on your work. When you were promoted to a managerial position, life became more complex because you were responsible for the work of those you supervised.

You lead the people who report to you, and you also must collaborate with your peers in serving your entire organization. At this point, you are likely to find that peer relationships become more challenging. You will be required to work with broad peer groups — those roughly at your same level but in different functions and locations. Balancing that is even harder.

Why is that?

▪  Expertise often comes with an ego.

▪  When power rests in the hands of a few, the air is thinner in that higher stratosphere. You are competing with others for advancement opportunities. Healthy competition makes players elevate their games, but too much internal competition can impede teamwork.

▪  Stakes are higher. Those who have arrived in senior management roles are no doubt heavily invested — both psychologically and financially — in their careers.

▪  Your purview becomes broader and the work more complex. You will find you can’t get things done by yourself.

How do you turn it around?

▪  Recognize that teamwork at the top is inherently difficult. Often leadership teams behave more like a group of all-stars rather than a team.

▪  Cultivate good working relationships with your peers. Figure out who is most critical to your success and pay attention there. That may sound political, but it’s just pragmatic.

▪  Support the efforts of your peers. Ask how you can help them succeed. Focus on cooperation rather than competition. Remember the real competition: other firms.

▪  Consider yourself a player in a marching band. Master your part; know your cues. Recognize that the goal is the overall performance, not just yours. Revel in the energy created by working harmoniously with your peers. If others outshine you, work to improve.

To become the consummate leader, become a team player.

Linda Clark-Santos, Ph.D., is a consultant and executive coach. LCSBusinessInsider@ GMAIL.COM.

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