From Leading a Team to Leading Leaders

Has the scope of your role increased?  Are you now leading leaders with teams of their own, rather than leading a team of individual contributors? Then you have a challenge. You can’t be the expert in every area you lead. You can’t be the problem-solver every time there is a crisis. Somehow, you need to find a way to have your finger on the pulse of your organization without monitoring everything directly. You need to “scale” yourself or you will be overwhelmed. And hardest of all, you may need to step further back from activities that you have found personally satisfying.



To scale yourself in a sustainable way, your mindset needs to change – you need to think about your role differently.


There are a couple of points here. One, you need to have a clear focus on the most essential components of your role.  Deciding what you get involved in, and how you get involved, becomes simpler if you have this clear focus, because it will be a prioritization filter. You will be intentional, rather than defaulting to what you’ve been doing, what you’re most comfortable doing, or what’s making the most noise. (For more on this issue, see my blog post How Do You Decide What To Spend Your Time On?)


Two, you need to have a broader focus. Imagine that you are looking at your role, the key relationships and goals surrounding you, through a camera lens. Now, take a few steps backwards so that your camera lens can encompass a broader and more complex scene. This is how your focus will shift.  And, the leaders you are leading need to pull their camera back from being doers, and maintain their intentional focus on leading their team members. One of your priorities should be to help them on this journey.



As you shift from team leader to leader-of-leaders, the key leadership skills won’t change. What will change is your purpose, and the complexity in each area.


Clarifying Purpose

As a team leader, you needed to clarify a direction around which your team could align. Ideally, you set direction jointly with team members.

As a leader of leaders, you need to not only align your leaders around a clear, shared direction, but you also need coach them to align their own teams around this direction. Each team’s direction will be flavored by its specific requirements and member input, but also consistent with your broad direction.


Managing Expectations

As a team leader, you needed to clarify performance expectations of your team members, including behaviors and results. And you needed to manage their performance relative to those expectations, including diagnosing and helping them remedy any performance gaps.

As a leader of leaders, your expectations of your leaders will include how they lead and the effects of their leadership. And you will need to coach them to clarify roles and manage performance in their own teams.


Managing Conflicts

As a team leader, you had to surface and manage conflicts with stakeholders, and you had to help your team members learn to manage their own conflicts.

As a leader of leaders, you need to help your leaders surface and manage conflicts with their stakeholders, and to help them develop the skill to coach their team members to manage their own conflicts.


Solving Problems

As a team leader, you had to help your team members solve problems they encountered, at the same time coaching them to become more self-managing in solving those problems for themselves the next time.  You probably also had to resist the seductive tendency to jump into every problem that came your way, rather using these problems as coaching opportunities.

As a leader of leaders, you need to help your leaders with this very challenge – how to use problems as a coaching opportunity with their team members.  And, in coaching your leaders, you need to resist the tendency to jump in and solve the problems they face in developing others.



As a team leader, you had to help your team members more effectively influence key stakeholders in support of your team’s goals. And you probably had responsibility for a few senior stakeholder relationships where you needed to influence them directly.

As a leader of leaders, you need to coach your leaders in developing their team members’ stakeholder influence skills. And you probably still need to coach them on their direct senior stakeholder relationships, and help them shift to a more strategic focus with these senior folks.



As a team leader, your coaching focused on developing self-directed performers – people who could accomplish team goals to a high standard in a self-managing way.

As a leader of leaders, you must coach leaders to become coaches themselves – so they can develop their own self-directed high performers.



These transitions may seem straightforward, but the biggest challenge in managing them is managing yourself. What might be especially challenging for you? For every leader-of-leaders, the self-management challenge is different.

It might be hard to let go of jumping into problem-solving, or of your picture of what’s the best approach in a crisis situation.

It might be hard to let go of stakeholder relationships ­– to let go of being the go-to person who can best navigate the complex issues.

It might be hard to remain patient in the face of your leaders’ developmental challenges, and of their learning curve as they learn how to lead.


One strategy that many leaders-of-leaders find helpful is to explicitly bring their leaders together as a leadership team. Participating collectively in the shared leadership of your group allows them to develop their capabilities in the context of helping you manage the strategic tasks of your organization, and to support one another as they fully develop into their leadership roles. And they can help you keep your camera lens focused in the right place.




View Joan Kofodimos's LinkedIn profileView Joan Kofodimos’s profile

About Joan

2 comments on “From Leading a Team to Leading Leaders

  1. Steve Benigno on said:

    Understanding the value of collaboration with, between and among leaders is also critical in realizing and maximizing the productivity, creativity and efficiency of an organization. A genuine sense of ownership can work wonders!

  2. Syed Hassan on said:

    Another good one..Thanks.. Picking up some specific quick actions from here on getting 100% of the team members at all levels aligned on the overall team direction, coaching the team leaders to encourage surface/manage conflicts, use problem solving as coaching opportunity, coach on senior management relationships..Very useful..thanks..

Speak Your Mind


200-310   350-050   70-532   200-310   70-411   100-105  ,""" 1Z0-803   SY0-401   000-080   70-480   200-101   70-461   220-802   1Z0-060   ITILFND   000-017   EX300   200-125  ,""" CRISC   1z0-808   CAP   ITILFND   210-060   OG0-093   101   400-201   220-802   PR000041   300-206   200-101   74-678   220-801   MB6-703   9L0-012   CRISC   300-209   70-488   2V0-621   2V0-620   200-120   MB6-703   642-999   CISM   9L0-066   ICGB   70-413   MB2-704   352-001   VCP550   MB2-704   700-501   70-346   70-463   CCA-500   352-001   PR000041   000-104   70-488   JN0-360   JN0-102   70-483   350-001   CISSP   JN0-102   1Z0-804   CAS-002   70-533   642-732   400-201   102-400   300-209   640-911   1z0-808   LX0-103   300-101   70-411   9L0-012   70-532   c2010-652   1Y0-201   70-461   200-125  ,""" ICBB   640-911   640-911   70-480   000-089   350-029   1Z0-803   000-080   100-105  , """ 300-070   EX300   640-916   350-001   210-065   400-051   2V0-621   200-120   M70-101   LX0-103   1Z0-804   200-310   SY0-401   352-001   300-320   100-101   810-403   MB2-707   N10-006   200-120   CISSP   810-403   300-075   210-060   210-260   300-075   210-060   642-999   300-115   70-461   MB2-704   MB2-707   810-403   210-060   70-533   1Z0-060   EX200   350-018   1Z0-803   210-260   400-101   400-101   810-403   810-403   CISSP   200-120   N10-006   CISSP   300-320   100-101   200-310   210-060   810-403   350-018   300-101   300-206   300-070   ADM-201   210-260   400-101   MB2-707   ADM-201   350-018   200-310   SY0-401   350-018   400-201   SY0-401   200-120   300-208   70-687   N10-006   500-260   210-260   200-310   70-410   400-051   350-018   810-420   640-875   70-643   200-125   810-403   210-260   70-460   200-101   1Y0-300   400-051   642-467   350-018   400-101   SY0-401   642-181   MB2-707   200-001   200-120   MB2-707   SY0-401   2v0-621   70-464   200-120   70-533   N10-006   350-060   210-060   200-310   400-201   300-320   CISSP   70-410   700-505   70-680   mb2-707   400-101