Whether you own a business or work for a larger company in a management role, there are three circles of leadership you will be juggling at all times.
In a perfect world, the circles overlap right in the center, so look more like one happy circle. However, that is a rare situation.
If you have that, you are one lucky individual. More likely though, the circles overlap a little but do not align in the middle. What can you do with the problem when they don’t align and you are spinning like crazy trying to make it work?
Here’s the Story
First, let me explain what the three circles are, then we’ll explore how to make the best of the situation.
The first circle is the Leader you want to be. As you think about your values, visions, and dreams, you get a picture of the “better you.” It would be wonderful to go to work and be nothing but this picture of the perfect Leader.
Maybe this idea came from experience, or coaching, or mentoring. More likely it is a combination of people you admire and people you’ve worked for. Perhaps a parent instilled in you some values and principles that you want to live by.
If you could be left alone and just “be” this person that you imagine, you are confident you would be a great leader. Let’s call this circle simply “Self”.
The Company View
Next is the Leader the company wants you to be. This position gets a little more complicated. The bigger the company, the management roles, and responsibilities get more complex.
Often, the company has a description of what a successful manager/leader should be. This definition evolves as the company grows and changes.
Let’s call this circle the “Company”.
Once you’re in a position, the feedback you get from above dictates the choices you make. Yes, hopefully, you have some autonomy to make decisions, but various approval authorities limit that.
Even for an entrepreneur, the Leader the company needs you to be can conflict with the one you think you want to be. As an example, the first time you need to fire someone you feel a twinge. You don’t want to be the person doing firing (the Self leader) but the situation (the Company) requires action. You have to fire that person. The company demands it.
The last circle is about the Leader your team needs you to be. Let’s call this one “Team.”
This last circle can get very personal. The interactions you have with your employees who make up your team can get very real, very fast.
Each person you hire comes to work with expectations, hopes, and dreams of their own. Plus, the burdens they carry come with them. As ‘the boss’ you have to figure out the best balance of just how close you get to each person and where the boundaries need to be.
3 Circle Mix
All three of these circle are working as you approach your role. As a leader, your focus should be on building flexibility and endurance for moving between the circles as the situation dictates.
On one hand, you could dig your heels in and say “No, I know what is important and things will get done my way.” That borders perilously close to the ‘my way or the highway’ leadership style.
Or you can intentionally shift from one circle to the other, still knowing that the space where things overlap is the ideal place to be.
The Magic is in Knowing
The real key to success within these boundaries is knowing the shape, size, and significance of each circle. You have to be aware of your own understanding and belief about each of these circles.
If you’ve never stopped to think in these terms, you may be very surprised to discover that a tension you have felt at work is directly related to a misalignment between one or all of these circles.
As an example, you may have a great sense of purpose and drive (Self). Your relationship with the Team may be strong. Yet there is a constant conflict with the Boss. When you evaluate that relationship, you may find the real rub is that you and the boss disagree on the role you need to be playing.
If your personal sense of purpose cannot align with what the Company needs you to be, you will never get comfortable with the position.
How do your three circles align? How much overlap exists?
What can you do tomorrow to better align these 3 circles.