Awake Leadership Preface

Preface to Awake Leadership

by Hilary Grosskopf

There are many different reasons for becoming a leader within a company or organization. People work hard to secure a leadership position, while others are asked to step up into a leadership role. Everyone’s experience as a leader will be completely unique. It is a living, breathing, one-of-a-kind experience. For me, the best part is building and developing the team. Beyond just a job, assuming the responsibility of a leader can be a transformational experience. Your experience as a leader will not follow a syllabus like you find in school. That is the cool part. However, the lack of structure and certainty can quickly become overwhelming for many people and can be an obstacle to the success of the team.

I joined the corporate world of retail because I was passionate about the products and learning. I started as an intern, became an analyst after graduation, then became a manager and, finally, a leader. I became a leader through a series of pretty organic events, though I did step up and ask to be a leader. Why did I want the experience of leading a team? Being part of a team is fun but teaching, sharing, and creating experiences for people are some things I have always enjoyed since I was young. Having the opportunity to do this in an applied setting where I was enthusiastic about the products and to even choose who was helping me was like a dream.

When I finally became a leader, I realized it wasn’t so easy and there isn’t a lot of guidance for how to onboard to a new company and be a strong leader. I realized that, like many things in life, leadership can be partially taught but a lot comes from practice. Without a map or guide for onboarding at a new company, understanding the full scope of my team’s workload, taking ownership of an existing team, or building a new team, I really had to put a lot of energy into just focusing on how to be a leader. I felt it took a long time to really understand the full scope of my responsibility and drive improvements. Luckily, as a systems engineer and from my experience as analyst, I was a trained observer. Instead of applying my analytics skills to metrics, volume, and dollars, I started analyzing my team, the scope of work, and the larger picture of what we needed to achieve to take responsibility of the work that had been handed over to me and to start making improvements to support the business growth and changes that were happening rapidly. I took guidance from my leader, my past leaders, books, conferences, events, teachers, and personal research and synthesized it into an experience and method for my team and myself. After understanding the scope of our work, we started working smarter, not harder. We had a vision and intention behind each task. We communicated openly. We started responding to change instead of reacting to it. We filtered out drama and started finding humor and enthusiasm about change (for the most part). We took ownership of our work and ultimately drove a lot of improvements that reflected in areas of the business outside of our team as well.

The intention for writing and sharing the content in Awake Leadership is to give leaders within companies and organizations a map for onboarding at a new company, progressing toward objectives with the team, and driving improvement with more ease and enjoyment. I present an iterative method for responding (not reacting) to change within your organization and developing your authentic, inspirational leadership style. The work of becoming a leader, working toward your vision, and making improvements is never done. There are already many team building and collaboration methods available that emphasize efficiency, timeliness, and optimal productivity. These are valuable. Try them all. However, few existing methods work to develop both hard and soft skills of leaders and their teams through applied exercises. Few existing resources use analytics and also show the team how to iteratively use reflection, analytics, and action to sustain excellent productivity and happiness.

I hope this guidebook serves as a springboard for your leadership journey and provides some ideas for action that resonate with you. If you are a leader of leaders, please pass on a copy of the guidebook to your direct reports to use with their teams. Have fun reflecting and trying the exercises with your team. Make your own team exercises and rituals as well. I hope you find applicable insights and takeaways each time around the staircase. Enjoy the journey.

xo Hilary


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