Making a Shift to Leadership…And Also Stepping Back

Dear Readers,

I first started writing “You’re Not the Boss of Me” four years ago, publishing my first post on January 6, 2009.  Over that time, it has been my intent to write current, timely posts that would give rise to deeper thought or practical action, sometimes both.  Now, I’m reaching a point where my ‘fresh ideas’ are, to me, becoming less fresh.  And so, I feel a sabbatical is in order, a time for me to step away and give myself a little time to recharge & regroup.

Between now and when I start writing new material here again, I will be republishing posts that appear to have resonated the most with you.  They carry with them the wish that you will find in them something new or a reminder of something old worth noting.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support. I hope you will continue to engage me, and each other, in conversation by way of your comments.

The first offering is about the subtle and sometimes not so subtle shifts we have to make when we first move to a management role.  It is a lesson we all learn sooner or later.  But sooner is better. Don’t you think?  Cheers



             Making the Shift to Leadership

I think the biggest (and perhaps most difficult) shift a person has to make when s/he makes a move to leadership is the Relationship Shift. (Try saying that three times fast!).

In working as individuals we often develop relationships with our co-workers, many of whom may actually become our friends.  We tend to pick and choose the people with whom we become close.  We become involved in their lives.  They become involved in ours.  And the balance of power between us tends to remain reasonably level.

Promotion to a leadership role changes all that.  Whether you are promoted within your current work area or move to another area or even another job, know this:

Promotion to a leadership role demands the establishment of a professional distance between you and those who work under your supervision.

This does not mean that you must isolate yourself from the people who work with you, far from it.  It does mean though that the relationships you develop must transcend your personal feelings about the people in your work group and expand to include an impartiality that allows you to make appropriate decisions and get the work done.

This shift in relationships is not a one-way street either.  With promotion to a leadership role comes a change in the balance of power.  People who were once peers become, (organizationally speaking), subordinates and that means you will have some influence over areas of their working life that you previously did not.   They will be looking for evidence that they can trust you with that.  And they will expect you to be fair about it.  So, you may not be invited to lunch as you once were.  And if you are, you should consider the wisdom of accepting.

The up side to this (and there’s always an up side) is that as a boss, you will have opportunities to build new relationships with not only those who work for you but with a new set of peers.  One of the crucial roles of a leader is to build relationships across a variety of lines of work.  This allows for easier communication, collaboration between and among stakeholders and an opportunity to learn new things from a variety of perspectives.  And that’s a good thing.

So while you may initially feel the loss of your previous working relationships, there is a bigger world out there for you to play in.

That’s what I think anyway.  What do you think?

P.S. While I think the shift in relationships is probably the most difficult one to make.  There are others.  Here are two more posts that address some of these ~ The Leadership Activity Shift and the Leadership Measurement Shift



Filed under Leadership, Leadership Development, Management

10 responses to “Making a Shift to Leadership…And Also Stepping Back

  1. Art Salyer

    All your advise is wonderful…thanks

  2. sparktheaction

    Gwyn, thank you for the thought you put into every post – having connected with you fairly recently, I enjoy each time the next ‘Your Not the Boss of Me’ hits my inbox.
    I have lived through the context of today’s post and agree, it was a most difficult transition from peer to ‘boss’. It was those same peers who helped me make the transition – they believed I was capable and that helped make the difference for me.
    Good fortune to you on this next phase of your journey

    Best regards,

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Carl ~ How fortunate you were to have had peers who saw something in you that transcended any feelings of resentment as you ‘stepped up’. It says a lot about them but I rather think too it says a lot more about you and the nature of the good relationships you built with them.
      Thank you for sharing that and for your kind words.

  3. Gwyn, I’m so pleased you will continue to re-post earlier writings. Since I’ve just been following your blog for about a year, I will most definitely look forward to reading and learning from your earlier posts. In this one you’ve beautifully captured the shift that occurs as one moves into their first leadership position. I will share it with some of my clients who are in the midst of this very change. Thanks, Jamie

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Jamie ~ One of the things that makes writing this blog worthwhile is when something I have written is recommended as being of some use in traversing the difficult leadership road. Thank you for that. I hope more of my “re-runs” will be of service to you as well! 🙂

  4. Best wishes for your rest and sabbatical. Looking forward to the next phase.


    • Gwyn Teatro

      Thank you, Martina. I’m not sure what the next phase looks like but I guess, I will have a little more time to reflect on that now 🙂

  5. Terry Thomas

    HI Gwyn
    I originally found your posts as a homework assignment. Since then you have coached me through some challenging times at work. As a result, I see leadership examples in so many daily activities. Now you are still mentoring as you “lead by example” by showing the self-awareness to take some well-deserved R&R!
    Since you usually finish your posts with a question, I still have dilemmas for your sage advice. Many times it seems like leaders should foster cooperation. Yet, many so-called leaders seem to stir conflict. If they are managing the conflict, they can stay “in charge”. I’m sure the best leaders can foster cooperation from the conflict. What do you think?
    Spring sounds like a great time for rest, reflection, and rebirth!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Terry ~ To know that you have found value in what I write is very gratifying. Thank you very much for taking the time to tell me. Frankly, I don’t know what will come out of my R&R from blogging time but perhaps that’s the point. 🙂
      As to your question, when it comes to conflict, I’m very much a student myself. What I do know is that conflict that occurs out of passion for a shared purpose or vision can be very useful and in fact important to the achievement of the best possible outcome for everyone. From that perspective, conflict can eventually lead to cooperation among people who have had the opportunity to be heard and made themselves listen as well. On the other hand, conflict for its own sake or to gain personal leverage over another is, in my observation, not very useful at all and can be very destructive to relationships.

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