Why your expertise doesn’t matter

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Oh, that’s bold. Bordering on offensive, really. You’ve worked your tail off to earn a leadership role and now your expertise is irrelevant? 

via GIPHY

Look. Knowing your stuff matters. Of course it does. But, as a new leader, you DO need to shift your thinking somewhat. Look at things from a lens and be, well, a leader.

It’s not always an easy or natural step for us to take, which is why – as part of our 5-part podcast series – we devoted an entire chat to it. 

Continuing our New Leaders series, we picked the brains of leadership expert, Jon Osborne. And, as ever, he’s given us some meaty bites of helpful info to guide you through this part of leading.

You can listen to the entire podcast here but, in the meantime, check out the overview we’ve pulled together. It’ll get you on the right road for leadership, so you can be the driving force your team needs.

Getting out of our own way

It’s easy to trip over our own feet when we’re new leaders. Proving ourselves. People management. Perspective shifts. It’s not surprising we fall over sometimes!

The trick with leadership is taking that metaphorical step back, recognising what you don’t know and how others can contribute. Because for many new leaders, says Jon, that’s the “first step in really unleashing a huge amount of potential in the people around them.”

In fact, he reckons you simply can’t be a leader without widening your lens.

“You can’t lead unless you have time and space to get on the ‘balcony’, to zoom out and see what’s actually going on here,” Jon tells us.

Your days of detail are no longer – it’s a wide angle from now on 📷

Strengths & weaknesses: yours and your team’s

Most of us have grown up believing (because we were…told to 🤷🏻‍♀️) it’s our weaknesses we should work on. Strengths? Oh, leave those to just do their thing.

Time for a rethink, according to Jon.

“It’s an almost entirely ineffective strategy for development,” explains Jon, “because what it produces is a resentment in that person that a) they’re no longer playing to their strengths and b) they suck at whatever it is they’ve been ignoring most of their life.”

It makes sense, right? If people aren’t harnessing their strengths and are instead bogged down in their weaknesses, they quickly spiral into a pretty negative headspace

Sure, we should always strive for better – but knowing what’s worth pursuing is going to get you way further in this new leadership journey.

Awareness and how it creates choice

Knowing yourself (yes, that includes your strengths, weaknesses and quirks) depends on awareness. Not in the traditional mindfulness sense (though Jon assures us that’s useful), but awareness of ourselves and how we operate in certain situations.

“When we do that,” says Jon, “we find that people naturally open up new perspectives – which include whatever it was they were weak at. And it’s a really lovely discovery within the leadership canon.

“[And it’s a] far more effective approach to actually help people evolve their strength into a less reactive style,” he reveals. “This says ‘I am aware this is my strength and I can now choose when to use it and when to step back.’”

Choice is GOOD. So push your ego aside, look within and get aware!

Heating up to skill up

As leaders develop their craft, it becomes increasingly important to get comfortable with being uncomfortable

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Not for the fun of it, but because that’s when the learning really starts

“We always have an edge of our learning,” Jon points out. “All that happens is that it moves – and so that’s the game of leadership. It’s expanding your edge.”

Not many of us relish the idea of being pushed too hard as the heat rises. Or really looking inwards (who knows what we’ll find? 🫣 ).

But without going there, we’ll never reach our full potential

The power of the question

As Einstein said:

The important thing is to not stop questioning.

Absolutely, agrees Jon. 

“If there’s one thing I’d like people to take from the shift of being an expert to being a leader, it’s really the power of the question,” he says. “Expertise and experts often work by making statements. And leaders often become powerful when they either voice the question – or ask a more powerful one.”

It’s not just quizzing someone for the sake of grilling them, though. Ask open questions that actually make people pause and think. Because THAT’S when you start to create more value

And, as a leader, that’s now in your remit. 

Walking the leadership line

Leadership isn’t about taking everything on yourself. It’s about creating a future other people want to be part of.

Your experience and expertise doesn’t disappear when you become a leader – it merely becomes part of the foundation on which you can build a different skill set. 

Understanding the big picture, knowing your value and getting the most from people is your gig these days. 

And you’re doing great 👊🏽

Want to hear more from the experts? Check out the podcast for yourself. It’s pumped full of practical info – and they’re for new leaders just like you!

While you’re working on your skills, why not check out:

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