I was watching the national championship pre-game show last week listening to coaches Urban Meyer and Nick Saban share their ideas on who might win the big game – Auburn or Oregon (we know how that turned out – darn Ducks!). Saban’s perspective resonated with me. He said that the team who wins will be the team who “dances the dance that got them there.” In other words, don’t do anything different or fancy or new and unique just because you’re in the championship game. I tell leaders that all the time. Well, maybe I don’t say it quite like Saban did and certainly not in regard to football games. But what he meant, and what I believe in, is that when you get to the big game, when you move to the top of the totem pole in that leadership role, don’t change the things that you were doing that got you there in the first place. You had to have been doing something right!
The biggest mistake I’ve seen new leaders make is assuming that when they move into that new role everything changes. Not true! Sure, responsibilities may change; some of your behaviors may need to be adapted; some of your relationships may need to be checked; but the fundamental YOU does NOT change. Pick up a mirror and see for yourself. The same you that you were before you became leader is still there. You didn’t suddenly gain a vast array of new knowledge, skills and abilities when you moved into the corner office, so don’t act as if you did. You didn’t suddenly gain a herd of new friends and admirers now that you’re the lead dog, so don’t fool yourself into thinking you are all that. You didn’t suddenly gain a monopoly on creativity and innovation now that you are the head honcho, so don’t quit listening to other’s ideas.
Bottom line, recognize that you are still the same person you were when you acquired the new title, office and salary, and be proud of it! Hang on to the behaviors, beliefs and values that you had before. Don’t change them just because you’re in a new role. Anything that needs to change will change when it needs to, how it needs to and for the right reasons. Don’t force it by being someone you’re not and dancing a dance that you don’t know. You might find that you have 2 left feet and end up losing the game! Dance the dance that got you there and see how successful you can be.