In my previous blog post, I introduced Level I Leadership Gears. I outlined the four basic gears that owners of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can use as a simple framework for gauging where they are in their personal development as a leader.

In this second post of my three-article series, I will provide a high-level overview of the three shift points (or transitions) that an owner will proceed through. Each shift point includes five key questions that frequently arise when moving through the Gears.


Three Shift Points to Transition from One Leadership Gear to the Next

Shift Point 1: Technical to Organizational

Of the three shift points, the change from Technical to Organizational is one of the most panic-inducing for owners. That’s because it’s the first shift, and it often begins semi-accidentally—which means that the shift begins before you realize it’s occurring. For many owners, this first shift means asking questions like:

  • Am I planting the seeds to grow a broader strategic vision?
  • What processes should be upgraded (or implemented) to streamline decision-making and efficiency?
  • Am I able to let go of the idea that I’m the preeminent subject matter expert (SME) and must “check everyone’s homework”?
  • What type and level of talent can I afford to help drive the organization forward?
  • Am I achieving a balance between the tyranny of immediate must-dos and my long-term goals as I frame my decisions and spend my time?

Shift Point 2: Organizational to Leadership

The second shift occurs when owners decide that the level of future growth they desire is achievable. They’ve grown more comfortable with their business, have experienced some successes, and see opportunities knocking on their door that they’re ill-equipped to grasp and hold onto. This shift involves asking:

  • Do my existing processes not only work but are they scalable as well?
  • Do I have the discipline to effectively delegate responsibilities—and to whom?
  • Am I placing too much hope on a strategic hire or individual team member?
  • Have I made the proper decisions regarding consultants and outside experts, or am I throwing my money into a bottomless pit of conflicting opinions?
  • Why are certain organizational initiatives failing (or outright blowing up) on the launchpad?

Shift Point 3: Leadership to Strategic

The third shift occurs when an owner has a management team and desires to upgrade that talent to a leadership team. A management team is distinctly different than a leadership team in its scope of authority, required skill set, and operational autonomy. This is a scary transition for many owners because it means reevaluating whether the people and processes that previously enabled the organization’s success will continue to do so. It also requires owners to give up even more direct control and place additional faith in others. This shift often involves inquiring:

  • Are we able to deliberately design and map the roles, competencies, and personalities of our ideal leadership team?
  • Can we objectively assess the existing management team members (a.k.a. “talent”) to determine whether they can grow further or if new blood is required?
  • Am I capable of shifting my behavior from a model where I “manage the managers” to one where I “coach the leaders”?
  • Should we reevaluate the customer/client that we serve as well as the products or services we offer and decide whether either or both will support our envisioned growth?
  • Do I have the capability to craft a broader strategic vision and rally the organization behind it?

If you’ve asked yourself iterations of any of the above questions during your tenure, then it’s likely that you have—or are—shifting gears. If you’re deliberately making the shift, kudos to you. If you haven’t thought about the shift, pump the brakes and pick up the phone because I think we need to talk.


In part 3 of this series, we’ll examine Level 2 Leadership Gears.

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