No matter your specific title at your company, you are a leader. But at what level do you lead from?
Within business, I've found that there are multiple tiers of business operation and leadership. Although all of them are key to building a strong business, there is one that you must aim for. If you are an entrepreneur with the goal of massive success, you must become a true leader.
That said, here are the three tiers of leadership and how you can grow from one to the next with the goal of reaching true leadership.
Tier 1: You're a follower.
At this tier, no one does what you do better and you have a very niche skill set or knowledge base. Followers are necessary and are often the vital component to driving a company forward. But if you want to move beyond this level, you must find ways to broaden your role and your expertise.
When I started my first business, I had to grow my knowledge based on every facet of the business. Sure, I had a strong engineering background, but I needed to understand how marketing worked, how the supply chain functioned best, and how to establish a solid customer service sector that truly aided my audience. By applying my curiosity and ability to learn fast, I grew from knowing one thing very well to knowing many things broadly.
To move beyond tier one, you must step into these unfamiliar areas of business with a strong caliber of communication. Don't let your newfound knowledge lay idle in your mind. Apply it to conversations and collaborations at work. Begin to engage in conversations with others to share what you have learned. Look beyond the playbook of your expertise and add value wherever you can.
Tier 2: You manage people.
At this stage, you've applied your broad knowledge to step into a role where you have a team working for you. If you want to expand yourself as a true leader, you must first create leaders around you. This begins with training others on how to be self-sufficient and trust their own decision process. When someone you manage comes to you with a problem, set the precedent that they will also come with one or two solutions.
When you set this expectation, your team will naturally begin to become self-reliant. They'll answer the questions themselves, and in time, they won't really need you. This allows you to step away to focus on larger and broader visions.
Tier 3: You're a true leader.
Personally, I believe that I don't need to know anything about the particulars of a business in order to step into a company and lead. Why? Because true leadership is about managing personalities, people, and a greater vision. You are no longer married to managing KPIs, a product, team, or a single goal. Instead, your mission is to inspire, communicate, and connect.
The problem at the top often becomes a matter of staying there. In order to do so, you need to establish boundaries that don't pull you back down into the day-to-day operations of any one particular business or department. I solve this issue by always thinking of the bigger picture. When brought into a particular pain point, I orient my thoughts back to how this fits above the business' day-to-day operations and respond from there.
If you want to become a true leader, it's time to let go of how things are done and become keenly focused on the what and the why of your business.