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Peer to Boss Leadership

By Frank Williams posted 10-12-2021 09:43


Over my seven years as an Adjunct MBA professor, I’ve taught numerous students who chose to pursue their MBA because they want to climb the ladder and be prepared for being a Boss. One can always tell the topics that just grab their attention - motivational theory, leader vs manager, strategic analysis. But, one topic that I can always tell the students are really focused on is Peer-to-Boss.

What is the topic of Peer-to-Boss? As individuals who have reached a high spot on the career ladder we made a choice to pursue becoming both a manager and a leader. Reflect back to when you made that choice. Were you ready? Out of all of the experiences and knowledge gained, what would you tell yourself when you made the decision? Would you have liked more information about what it really means to be a Boss and the changes, from responsibilities to friendships, that come along with it? Look, the Peer-to-Boss struggle is real, especially in the early years of a new manager's career.

We always start off with five questions, “How do you know I’m ready to take the next step in your career and pursue that higher-up-the-ladder management or leadership position?”, “Do I start internally or try externally?”, “Why did I want to become a Boss?”, “What was I thinking?”, and “What do I do now?” This blog will focus on the first question.

“How do you know I’m ready to take the next step in your career and pursue that higher-up-the-ladder management or leadership position?”
A difficult question to answer; yet, I feel people tend to blow through deep thought as the typical reason to pursue a higher position is money. Let’s consider the following skills from a high level when trying to climb the ladder within your organization (trying to outside is another branch of this conversation):

● Subject Matter Expert - Do my coworkers see me as a SME, or can I fake it until I make it?
● Emotional Intelligence & Maturity - Do I have a basic understanding of EI, and upon reflection am I mature enough to be a Boss?
● Ability to communicate to co-workers and current staff above you - Do I have the skill set to communicate in all four directions of the organization?
● Ability to present - I may not like it, but can I do it and am I willing to get better?
● Lead by example - Am I ready to show all my co-workers not just the ones I’m close with who I really am?
● Enterprise connections - Do I have connections throughout the organization or peer groups?
● See perspectives from the lens of others - Am I ready to remove blinders and skepticism and view occurrences (both HR and non-HR) through the lens of the people I have to manage?
● Doers are not always good managers - Think Michael Jordan trying to be a coach. I’m great at being a doer, but am I ready to give up “doing 100% of the time” to “doing 50% of the time” as I now have other responsibilities?

I remember back to my first Supervisor job - a young 20 something trying to manage and lead a team of peers with some older than me and some more seasoned than me. I wish reflecting back that someone had pulled me to the side and asked me if I was really ready. Instead, I took the role offered to me because I wanted to climb but also because of the money. I’ve learned so much more of what it takes to be a manager and leader over the years and will continue to learn to become better. Whether you're a school finance vet who is looking to take the step to be a Superintendent or you are guiding a staff member who wants to climb, having an understanding of Peer-to-Boss concepts and transitions are extremely beneficial.

By Frank Williams, Ed.D
Executive Director of Business and Operations
Mascoutah School District

If you have a topic you would like to share on the Leadership Center Blog, please contact Laura Rude at lrude@iasbo.org.