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Do, Manage, Lead: Unlocking Career Success

Updated: May 22, 2023

Careers are journeys filled with different stages and phases. Some individuals dedicate their entire careers to a specific functional role, while others progress through various functions, roles, and titles. Regardless of the path taken, understanding the Do, Manage, Lead concept can greatly benefit professional growth. Unfortunately, I didn't come across this concept until about ten years into my own career, and I wish I had learned it sooner.

Let's break down the three key stages:

DO: At the beginning of a career, most people start as Doers or individual contributors. This is the stage where individuals learn their craft, hone their skills, and establish themselves as reliable performers. Being a Doer has no time limit, and many professionals find fulfillment in this role throughout their entire careers. After all, without dedicated Doers, nothing would get done.

MANAGE: As careers progress, some individuals transition from being strong individual contributors to managerial roles. Here, the focus shifts to monitoring and measuring performance against organizational objectives. It took me years to realize that numbers can be managed, but people require leadership. Effective managers have the ability to project and report progress in a factual and credible manner, ensuring the company achieves reliable and repeatable results.

LEAD: Leadership revolves around influence, clarity of purpose, and direction. People crave leadership, not just management. As a leader, your role is to support and guide your team members, helping them succeed by providing necessary resources and removing barriers. Leadership is not about what you do personally, but rather the results achieved through your guidance. Have you ever wondered why some individuals amass a cult-like following while others struggle to gain any followers?

It's important to note that the skills that make someone a good Doer won't necessarily make them a good Manager, and the qualities of a good Manager may not translate into effective Leadership. Successful individuals possess and maintain the ability to navigate the cycles of DO, MANAGE, and LEAD in a robust, integrative, and iterative manner.

In reality, no one is exempt from playing each role as necessary throughout their career. Senior leaders might find themselves being Doers on certain projects, Managers on others, and Leaders on several more. While leading a project, they might also take on the role of a Doer on another project for a different leader. In fact, many executives I've spoken to insist on maintaining some level of hands-on involvement as Doers to stay connected with their passions and feel alive.

For new managers, transitioning from the Doer phase to effectively supporting their teams can be challenging. It's a normal phenomenon that requires insight from those who have experienced similar transitions.

Remember, embracing the Do, Manage, Lead framework can help you thrive throughout your career. Adaptability and a willingness to embrace different roles are key to unlocking your true potential.

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