Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP


A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
August 2017   |   By Dan Gaynor

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Leadership from Supervisor to CEO

I believe the idea that senior leadership is so different than entry level leadership as we climb the corporate ladder has to be among the more prevalent leadership myths. I would argue that the opposite is true. While there are a few differences, the skills you should develop as a front line supervisor are also the most important for a CEO. Building relationships, providing skillful feedback, communicating and coaching well, learning what appropriate control looks like, hiring and managing performance, all remain the most important to team performance. Great CEOs appreciate their importance and continue polishing them.

This said, reflecting on my own journey from entry level sales supervisor to president of a large daily newspaper of 700 people, there are probably three significant differences I'll comment on:

1. The mistakes cost more

This was a lesson I learned from an early mentor, following one of my first mistakes as a newspaper president. I recall the observation he offered me, "Dan, you've learned something important. The mistakes a president makes cost more." He was right. Those basic skills you learn as an entry-level leader are often the key to avoiding the more expensive mistakes you can make as a senior executive. Ideally, as you progress to senior leadership, your skills become far more refined. Never let your pride get in the way of your own continued leadership development. This is the biggest shortfall I see in many of the senior leaders I encounter. I dare say the majority have lots of room for improvement but they stop growing because along the way they lose the humility to keep learning.

2. You take on the responsibility for other leaders.

We know it is always the immediate supervisor who has the most direct impact on how long people stay and how well they perform. I once heard is said that people do one of two things when they work for a poor leader - they quit or they stay and quit. This is why good senior leaders recognize a dual responsibility: their performance, and that of every other leader in the organization. If you are a leader who leads other leaders, their performance is your responsibility. You should know how they are doing and be working on their development. The job as a senior leader is to build the leadership capacity of the entire organization, from lead hands to vice presidents. Developing other leaders, and deciding who goes and who stays are key responsibilities for every senior executive. One poor leader in the ranks will depress the performance of his or her part of the organization.

3. You spend more time on culture

While most leaders pay little attention to culture, the best are purposeful about building it. The best are deliberate about creating a positive culture around traits like teamwork, truth, diligence, quality, achievement and others. Culture is not what your team does but the way they go about it - your team's collective values and practices. It is what makes two companies in the same business different places to work at. It is one of the most important factors in the effort to attract, motivate and retain talent, and it will become more important in the years ahead as the competition for people intensifies. The best senior executives put a lot of energy into developing the organization's culture. They know that when they get this right, performance follows.

If you're reading this as a senior executive I hope you are encouraged to engage or maybe re-engage in your own leadership development, your team is depending on it. If you're reading as an entry or mid-level leader the message is much the same. The work of leadership development should never stop. As the cost of the mistakes grows you'll be much better positioned to avoid them. Pay attention to the differences as you move up the ladder, and remember - the fundamentals will always be most important.

Discussion questions:

  1. Do you have the humility to keep learning?
  2. Where is your leadership development currently focused, what is your next step?
  3. What steps could you take to develop the leaders who report to you?

For more on developing strong leadership skills check out these 1/2 day workshops offered this Fall at the Kahanoff Centre or check out my book, The Heart and Hands of Leadership: The Twelve Timeless Practices of Effective Leaders.

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A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
August 2017   |   By Dan Gaynor


Has this article sparked some thinking?
Join our blog Talking Leadership here to share it with other readers.


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Download our articles below:

Lead Like Scrooge, December 2017

Follow Well To Lead Well, October 2017

Fundamentals First, September 2017

Leadership from Supervisor to CEO, August 2017

Job Fit and Performance, May 2017

Thinking "Corporate", February 2017

Authenticity and Vulnerability?, November 2016

The Pain Problem, October 2016

The Big Question, September 2016

Risky Business, March 2016

Mentoring in the Moment, January 2016

Sacrificial Leadership, December 2015

5 Tactics For Better Meetings, November 2015

Leader as Follower, October 2015

Dynamic Balance, September 2015

Fearless Humility, August 2015

Fear and Accountability, July 2015

Building a Feedback Culture, June 2015

Fostering Accountability, May 2015

Confront or Avoid?, Apr. 2015

The Heart of Accountability, Mar. 2015

Powerful Ambition, Feb. 2015

Inspiring Possibilities, Jan. 2015

Ralphie and the Strategic Approach, Dec. 2014

Disagree Well, Nov. 2014

Culture and People, Oct. 2014


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