WHAT KIND OF LEADER DO YOU WANT TO BE? 2024-02-04T23:18:33-05:00


Note: This week’s newsletter is authored by a young leader I know well: my son Jared. Jared is a graduate of Georgetown University and a team leader at Snappy, a global tech company. I want to assure you that he is sharing his leadership tips voluntarily with no pressure being applied by his father.

It was early in May 2023 and it had been a challenging week. Our second quarter of the year was concluding and our numbers weren’t looking good. In the previous few weeks, one of my direct reports, a people-manager, had been giving me feedback about our compensation structure and goal-setting.

She had been providing this feedback not just to me, however, but to our senior leaders as well. This occurred after significant feedback had been given by her earlier in the year to myself, my leaders, and other peers about the same topics (goals and compensation) and after some changes were made for the betterment of the team based on that feedback.

My perception was that the feedback from this team member was not going to stop…and the way she delivered feedback was “in fierce advocacy for her team.” Moreover, she delivered her opinions with strong emotion, and negativity.

During that week in May, I had my bi-weekly one-on-one meeting with our Chief Revenue Officer, who had become a mentor to me. As we began our meeting, he said, “Jared, I know it’s been a tough couple of weeks. Can I share something one of my mentors told me earlier in my career?” Of course, I told him to continue, and I assumed the listening position.

He proceeded to tell me the following:

When I was a young manager with a desire to climb the ladder to a senior leadership position, I took it upon myself to defend my team, stand up for my team always, and advocate for my team no matter what. My mentor pulled me aside one day and explained the concept of I-shaped leaders vs T-shaped leaders.

He said “Matt, advocating for your team is an important quality of leadership and you have that. One thing I’ve noticed in my career is that as people move up the ladder to more senior leadership roles, the truly great senior leaders are T-shaped leaders compared to I-shaped leaders.

I-shaped leaders (think narrow and straight) spend the majority of their time thinking about their team, their direct reports, their immediate team. T-shaped leaders (think extended) don’t only think about those directly in their span of care…they also know that in order for their team to be successful, the company has to be successful, and in order for that to happen, they need to think strategically ACROSS the department and company.

They collaborate well with other leaders, offering help where needed. They understand the goals of other teams and how their team can impact those goals. And ultimately, they think big picture and develop a deep understanding that while team advocacy is important, sometimes, company decisions are made that may have unintended challenging impacts for their team. They not only internalize that concept…they feel confident explaining it to their team because they know it’s what’s best for the company.

According to the story my CRO told me, the manager who had been giving my managers and me feedback was an I-shaped leader and had some growing to do in order to reach her professional goals.

I took note of this concept, started teaching it to other leaders in our company. I do my best to be mindful of this lesson on a daily basis.

As you move through your own leadership journey, and as you balance advocating for your team with pursuing company goals, ask yourself these questions:

”What type of leader do I want to be?

How can I best serve all relevant stakeholders?”

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