Transitioning to Senior Leadership: From Task Manager to Champion


When we asked executive leaders to describe what effective senior leaders do, their responses centered around empowering people (versus micromanaging) and building others up. Here were a few of the raw comments from the executives we surveyed.

The effective senior leader…

  • Empowered each team member to own their area and deliver.  She was involved in important details but did not micromanage.
  • Involved people in important details but did not micromanage. He also focused on impactful actions, not minutiae.
  • Built up his team’s confidence versus tearing it down.
  • Was positive, supportive and involved, providing direction as needed but at the same time not taking over or micromanaging.  He allowed subordinates to take ownership.
  • Entrusted others through delegation, letting them fail as long as the failure was “below the waterline.”
  • Had respect for others, empowered their people and held them accountable.

The Shift: From Task Manager to Champion

That brings us to our fourth mindset shift that senior leaders need to make to be successful – from being a task manager to a champion (see shifts 1 – 3 in previous posts).

There’s a distinction between managing tasks and being a champion of something. Managing tasks is important and critical work at every level within an organization. But as a guiding orientation, it’s narrow, siloed and mostly about getting things done. Being a champion of something, on the other hand, is to be a supporter or a representative of a cause. It’s a person who is a promoter of or leader of a cause. While the task manager is focused on maintaining status quo and efficiency, the champion is focused on ensuring the right things are being done that are in alignment with the vision and guiding direction of the organization.

We recently consulted for a fast growing high tech company in the Denver area. The organization had grown from the typical start-up in the founder’s garage to a $150 million company with almost 200 employees. Growth projections looked good and the company expected to add additional personnel over the coming years. Even with all of this growth, the CTO had yet to make the shift to being a champion. He was the quintessential tech guru who loved to tinker. He spent his weekends building applications for fun and during the week he loved to dive into the weeds. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with either, but he failed to provide a strategic technology direction for the organization and champion that direction through execution. He was the classic executive operating as a project manager.

The bottom line is that the champion drives organizational vision into reality – especially in the face of resistance and attachment to the status quo.

Stay tuned to learn more about how to make this important mindset shift.