So, just got that big promotion, eh? Now, you’re “It.” Big Shot. Grand Poobah. Boss Hog. El Jefe. Shiznit. The Big Cheese. Uppity-Muckety-Muck. She who must be obeyed. Kahuna.
Sounds great, right? Finally, you’re a CXO, with all the rights, privileges, honors and benefits occurring thereto.
So I say, Congrats! Finally, you have all that extra money, private elevator, fancy business card and a big, honkin’ corner office… you big LOSER!
Wait, what?? If I have just been promoted, why are you calling me a Loser?? What the hell have I lost?
Funny you should ask. I hate to be a buzz-kill, but you may want to put down that promotion drink for a second. You see, when ascending into senior-most leadership, you do lose some things.
- You have lost the ability to suggest. Unfortunately, at your new lofty stratum, suggestions sound more like orders than random ideas. Surprisingly, nearly all your suggestions will be implemented, post-haste. Complete with “I thought that’s what you wanted.”
- You lose the ability to consistently rely on a decision-making safety net. This one is tougher to realize before you’re there. Until in the seat, most of us don’t really understand the comfort we get from having others above us in the food chain to prevent our sheer stupidity from making the 6 o’clock news.
- You have lost the ability to hold a grudge. Sure, remember how people perform and behave, but you must now be willing to forgive and forget. Or at a minimum, forgive and empower (again).
- You lose the ability to vent outwardly to a crowd. No more temper tantrums when something breaks. Not that you should have been having them before, but…
- You lose the ability to have a bad day. At least the ability to display that you’re having a bad day. Your followers need — and have the right to – you at your best.
- You have lost the ability to not recognize that whenever your door opens, you’re on stage. The world (as you know it) is always watching; act accordingly.
- You lose the ability to be “off-stage” with anyone with the same paycheck. I’m not saying you can’t hang out (though I do advise restraint), but while hanging out remember you’re still on stage. Some things done cannot be undone, nor can things seen be unseen.
- Language—you lose the ability to use any of the following phrases:
- S/He’ll get over it.
- Titles don’t matter.
- Just handle it.
- Make it go away.
- Because I said so.
- I can’t deal with that right now.
- That’s not the way we did it at XXX Company.
- Finally, you have utterly lost the ability to take credit for anything that happens on your watch, unless you were the sole human responsible for every single step of the way. In which case, you’re being paid too much. Don’t feel too bad about this one; you’re still 100% accountable for all of your purview, including the screw-ups, oopsies, and “my bads.”
And yes, yes… before anyone picks one or two of these and comes up with the clever “…but Bill Gates doesn’t have a degree” exception, I do realize that some of these may not be as absolute a prohibition as I’ve described. Let’s agree, however, that overall some of our up-to-now behaviors must go the way of the dodo bird (or cash, customer service or fifty-cent coffee) when we achieve senior-most leadership levels.
This top-10 list isn’t meant to be discouraging or restrictive; it’s simply a fact that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Some of those responsibilities can be displayed as much by what you don’t do, as by what you do.
And take heart… the list of things you get to do is incredible. You get to influence careers and lives; you get to have a personal impact on people and organizations; you get to make meaningful decisions so that others may succeed… there are lots more, but we’ll save them for a sequel article.
And remember: Grace and accountability can coexist.