Becoming a Leadership Expert


October 4, 2018

Written by: Melanie Adams, Executive Director, Center for Executive Education at Belmont University

Next-level leadership often requires an internal shift that comes as a surprise for many of us, and rightly so.  In a leader’s evolution, typically effectiveness early on in one’s career centers on the standard, metrics-driven evaluation of job performance.  This means that as early-career leaders we are judged by how well we know the part of the business that we are managing, how effective we are at directing the workloads of our teams, how clearly we can articulate the needs of the business, which requires that we have a deep understanding of the business itself.  As leaders move into higher-level roles though, responsibilities begin to shift in focus and if we want to maintain our “effectiveness,” we have to align our skills and capacities with the new primary function of our roles: inspiring and leading others.  It is at this point that as leaders we step away from being subject-matter experts about the job functions within the business from which we came, and instead we must work to become the subject matter expert of leadership.

Leadership Starts at the Center… of Who You Are

So how do we make that shift, and become a leadership expert?  I believe that it requires being incredibly intentional about how time is spent as a leader, where we choose to focus our energy and what we allow to become a priority. It starts with you – with striving for self-awareness and with recognizing what is at the core of each of our unique styles and personalities.  From this place of self-knowledge, leaders begin to develop a personal leadership brand that truly fits, that builds confidence and feels empowering and centering.

Another step in becoming the subject matter expert on leading others is the process of seeking out new information and perspectives from other experts.  Our ability to stay in a learning or “growth” mindset is dependent on how often we engage with others who challenge our own points of view and bring new layers of context to the universal challenges of leadership: leading others through organizational change, stepping confidently and masterfully into difficult conversations, balancing the needs of the organization with the needs of the people that make up the organization and creating opportunities that will bring out the highest level of commitment and performance from those we lead.

Next-level leadership often requires an internal shift that comes as a surprise for many of us, and rightly so.  In a leader’s evolution, typically effectiveness early on in one’s career centers on the standard, metrics-driven evaluation of job performance.  This means that as early-career leaders we are judged by how well we know the part of the business that we are managing, how effective we are at directing the workloads of our teams, how clearly we can articulate the needs of the business, which requires that we have a deep understanding of the business itself.  As leaders move into higher-level roles though, responsibilities begin to shift in focus and if we want to maintain our “effectiveness,” we have to align our skills and capacities with the new primary function of our roles: inspiring and leading others.  It is at this point that as leaders we step away from being subject-matter experts about the job functions within the business from which we came, and instead we must work to become the subject matter expert of leadership.

Leadership Starts at the Center… of Who You Are

So how do we make that shift, and become a leadership expert?  I believe that it requires being incredibly intentional about how time is spent as a leader, where we choose to focus our energy and what we allow to become a priority. It starts with you – with striving for self-awareness and with recognizing what is at the core of each of our unique styles and personalities.  From this place of self-knowledge, leaders begin to develop a personal leadership brand that truly fits, that builds confidence and feels empowering and centering.

Another step in becoming the subject matter expert on leading others is the process of seeking out new information and perspectives from other experts.  Our ability to stay in a learning or “growth” mindset is dependent on how often we engage with others who challenge our own points of view and bring new layers of context to the universal challenges of leadership: leading others through organizational change, stepping confidently and masterfully into difficult conversations, balancing the needs of the organization with the needs of the people that make up the organization and creating opportunities that will bring out the highest level of commitment and performance from those we lead.