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The Value of Service Leadership

There are a lot of dimensions that a leader or manager can have to their "style". I think being aware of your style is actually an important dimension in and of itself: a leader should be self aware and reflective. Knowing how you are and what you are trying to be to the people you are leading is important. As you lead or manage more people, being intentional about what you are trying to do is more important. That starts with self reflection as well as a commitment to learning from others. Eventually, a style emerges and evolves from that fertile ground.

An important dimension in terms of style is how you as a leader views your own work and contribution. What are we all doing here in management? What does that even mean?

Back in the day, people would refer to "getting a resource" -- meaning a person under them. The connotation was "this is my lackey and they do my work for me". Some new managers fall into this trap naturally. They look at their previous world of directly contributing to the outcomes of the organization and just think management is doing the same thing but with people to take on the unsavory parts. Some organizations are set up like this (like some recruiting agencies) but this is not a satisfying alignment for non-management employees, and it portends the inefficient use of company resources.

When you start off in management, its helpful to throw out everything you knew about success in your pre-management life. Yes, you have goals, but how you achieve them is dramatically different. Rolling up your sleeves is still a gear you need but no longer is it your prime operating paradigm.

Let me provide a useful frame for when you make this transition: Individual Contributors, whether they be SDRs, product managers, engineers, etc are executing on the mission of the company every day.  They are the one's actually achieving the company's mission. The sensations of touch, smell, sight and sound for the organization are experienced by those employees who are actually interacting with the customers and product. You, as a manager, are there to make their work easier. You coordinate, communicate, plan, and empower those people so that they can build a better product and serve the company's customers better.

In essence, hierarchy is upside down. The goal of the organization is to make things that people want.  That is done by the fat end of the upside down triangle: The individual contributors. They are the ones actually making things happen. The rest of the triangle is just there supporting and keeping the individual contributors at the top unencumbered and focused on the mission. Management is still important work and there is a scale affect where a great or poor manager can have outsized impact on an organization, but in terms of importance, the work of managers is derivative.

That's service leadership. When you go into work, think deeply about the impact you want to have. If you are a manager: What can you do to make the lives of the people you manage better? If you succeed at that, your team will succeed in making the mission happen every day.

Trent Krupp

VP of Operations at Triplebyte. Founded an agency in my 20's, sold it to Hired and became employee 5. Recruited for Atomic (VC), Credit Sesame and MakerSights. Helped the founders of recruitment tech startups Shift.org, Terminal and Beacon in the early days.

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