Project Management

Scaling Up – 13 Principles to Scale Your “Leader of Leaders” Influence

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The Scenario: 

  • Greg gets promoted to a “leader of leaders” position.
  • Greg assumes that he will have to increase his hours, so adopts 60-hour weeks.
  • Greg doesn’t scale up his leadership style and still works as if he’s leading a small team.
  • Greg’s direct reports grow increasingly frustrated with his inconsistent leadership style of sometimes micromanaging, sometimes ignoring, sometimes doing things others can do, or sometimes creating fire-drills to get deliverables done.
  • Greg’s manager sees him not getting things done and puts more pressure on Greg.
  • Greg steps it up to 80-hour weeks.
  • Greg’s direct reports start leaving, citing Greg as an ineffective leader.
  • Greg’s manager signs Greg up for a class on how to scale as a leader. Greg doesn’t go because he’s too busy.
  • Greg’s family grows increasingly frustrated with his not being present and part of the family.
  • Greg puts on ten pounds due to poor eating habits and lack of exercise.
  • Greg’s manager makes the difficult but needed decision to demote Greg.


The Message: The above scenario may be unfamiliar to some, but to others it might mean replacing Greg’s name with their own. Scaling up as a leader doesn’t have to mean longer hours and greater sacrifice. It does mean that the leader needs to adopt some new habits and adjust expectations of both himself and others to sustain as a leader.

To effectively and sustainably scale up as a leader of leaders, consider which of these 13 principles you need to embrace:

  1. Embrace that your job is more about seeking clarity, setting direction, and driving decisions versus being a doer.
  2. Embrace that your world is about choices; what to do and what not to do. Sometimes your alternatives are good and bad, but many times your alternatives are worse and worser. You will find yourself at times choosing least-worst alternatives.
  3. Embrace that not everyone will agree with every decision you make; your job is to ensure they understand the “why” behind each decision and can respect it.
  4. Embrace the concept of intentional empowerment and think in terms of empowering others to solve problems, providing guidance, being clear on due dates, and establishing a follow-up rhythm. Empowerment is not set-it-and-forget-it or errand-running.
  5. Embrace that your to-do list will not only contain things you need to do, but also follow-ups with others on things you have empowered them to own (see #4).
  6. Embrace that you will need to be deliberate about scheduling nonwork time--friendship, leisure, and life commitments--and treating them with the same importance as work commitments.
  7. Embrace that to succeed in scaling up you will need a leadership team you trust to get things done and with members who can grow to take your job in the future.
  8. Embrace that holding others accountable is not just for your leadership team and those in your organization but is also about peers and senior leaders.
  9. Embrace that others may do things differently than you. Your job is to align on the what and advise on the how, unless there is some legal or policy reason to be prescriptive on the how.
  10. Embrace that being sustainable doesn’t mean you never have to sprint or re-prioritize work and personal life; it just means that you don’t chronically do it and try to sprint a marathon.
  11. Embrace that you will always be genuinely seeking and candidly sharing wisdom. It’s your responsibility as a leader to not only grow yourself, but others as well.
  12. Embrace that others in the organization don’t want to hear that you’re nervous; they want to hear that you’re focused. Others are drawn to the calm and prescriptive one in the room when everyone else is freaking out. You may not always know all the steps to get out of a crisis, but you should always know what success looks like and what needs to be done next.
  13. Embrace that it’s lonely at the top. You need a safe, trusted advisor to help you grapple with issues who can affirm when you’re right and advise when you’re wrong.

The Consequences: 

By not taking intentional action to scale your leader of leaders influence your consequences can include:

  • Burnout – You try to do too much on your own and chronically burn the midnight oil working to get it all done.
  • Reduced employee satisfaction – Your leaders won’t feel trusted to own problems and do their job.
  • Late or missed deliverables – Trying to do too much on your own means more things are likely to be missed because of too many balls in the air that you can’t catch.

The Next Steps: 

  • Review the 13 principles to embrace.
  • Decide which top three you need to work on.
  • Review your plan with an accountability partner.
  • Work on the three for three months until you’ve developed good habits, then choose the next three, and so on.
Posted on: May 18, 2022 07:46 PM | Permalink

Comments (5)

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When I replaced Greg's name with my name, the only other thing I had to change is the last step in the scenario: instead of a demotion, I was laid off.

What I particularly like about the 11th principle is that growing others is a great way to grow ourselves.

Dear Lonnie
The topic that you brought to our reflection and debate was very interesting.

Thanks for sharing and for the "13 principles you need to embrace"

I was curious to know what Rosa Parks, Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon Bonaparte, Harriet Tubman, and Susan B. Anthony have to say about intentional empowerment

Good Point to review, procced keeping in view the 13 points you will be able to know the deficiency to be focused.

Excellent list from Lonnie. I would like to highlight the importance of finding an accountability partner to work with, as it reinforces commitment. Being committed and accountable to others significantly increases the probability of achieving our goals.

This is good. A trusted mentor of mine recently shared with me, "a vision carries those who carry it." Leaders ought to spend plenty of time weaving vision into every step of the project journey. Thanks @Lonnie.

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