Where Do You Climb After You've Reached the Top?

Once they've reached and served at the top, many leaders of for-profit and non-profit corporations alike, struggle with how to increase their growth and impact.

Do they set higher and loftier organizational goals to crush, do they switch industries for greater challenges, or what now? Vy for a leadership position at their local…

None of these in themselves is either a great or wasted, pursuit. But maybe we’re asking the wrong questions.

What you do after the glory of your Director, C-Suite Exec, Founder position is not about “what” you want to do ... just yet.

If you had not engaged in this process earlier in your professional path, the question to ask yourself when at the top, and looking at “what’s next” to increase your growth and impact, is:

“Why?”, followed by “Who?”, “With Whom?”, “When?”, then, and only then “What?” and “How?”.

1. Why?

Why do you want to do what you want to do (whether that be staying to pursue even greater goals, or leaving for other challenges)?

Asking “Why” will get to the core of your motivation. Digging even deeper with your “Why” will unearth your values. You will choose to pursue that which you most value.

Make time to remove yourself from distraction, truly investing in mining what is at the core of “why” you want to do “what” you want to do.

If you find yourself writing down something you feel at odds with. It may be an indicator that you are pursuing what you feel is incongruent with who you are.

If stuck here, I don’t recommend proceeding to the other questions, until you either shift your direction or fix your compass.

If at peace, and even excited at the thought of your “why”, all systems are a “Go”! Proceed to the next question.

2. Who?

The next question to ask yourself as you consider your next step as a leader is “Who do I want to be?” Or, “Who Will I have to be in order to successfully do what I want to do?”

This speaks to everything about you; your thought life, emotions, words, actions, personal brand, influence, accomplishments, impact.

When you stand at the end of what this season represents, “Who will you be?”

What growth in character, competence, and connection with others will you need in order to be “who” you want to be to do “what” you want to do.

The truth is, we all have the potential to be the greatest version of ourselves and we all need to identify “who” that is, in order to grow into that person.

3. With Whom?

“With Whom?” is a question we don’t often ask, but end up finding out just how critical it is, once engaged.

Ask yourself in advance, “with whom?” you want to work.

And don’t rush trying to get to the answer either.

Consider the purpose, values, vision, culture, and even the strategic direction of the individual, group, or organization.

I’m guessing that at this point in your career, you are not trying to prove anything to anyone, to move any higher. Your priorities are to maximize impact and to leave a legacy.

Danielle Leslie speaks about seeking to engage where you and others will bring a "culture-add", rather than make a culture fit.

This is because "with whom" you work can determine how effectively you work, and could even influence whether or not you achieve the outcomes you set out to effect.

4. When?

The timing of pursuit is just as important as the pursuit itself.

I have worked with many leaders that feel they stayed too long, or left too soon, or jumped into new territory too quickly, and are overwhelmed about how to navigate their next level.

Asking yourself, when you choose to make your move, helps you plan ahead and put the structures in place that will support and sustain your decision, when it’s time for implementation.

5. What?


Armed with your “why”, “who”, “with whom”, and “when”, you can now turn to the “what”.

What do you want to do that aligns with all of the above?

It’ll help you negotiate the terms of your opportunity to honor who you are becoming, what you stand for, whom you want to work with, and how you want to engage in an arrangement that does not stifle, but rather, optimizes, your growth and impact.

6. How?

It is one thing to know “what” you want to do. It adds great value to be able to decide “how”.

A subset of “what”, asking “how?” allows you to get to the granular detail of the actual scope of work, terms of reference, working terms of your “next”.

Do you want to engage in Employment, Consulting, Board Governance, an Advisory role, or another hybrid model you would like to propose?

Will it be full-time or part-time? Will you be involved in technical execution, or strategic direction?

What other variables would you like to consider as you think about “how” you want to engage to increase your growth and impact?

Climbing Your Mountain

As you embark on this journey of success and significance, remember that whilst it may have taken your entire career to summit the top of the mountain you currently stand on. Your growth and impact do not need to end with this position.

There will be plenty of other challenges and complexities when you choose the path to your “next”, whether that be in the same position, another, or somewhere else, doing something completely different altogether.

Because the thing about trekking up mountain tops is once you are at the top of one, you can’t leap to the top of the next (I hear someone saying, 'you can, if you have a helicopter.' LOL! I grant you that).

Most of the time, once you decide to take on a new mountain, you will start your climb at the base of the mountain, and make your way up. Even if you could leap from peak to peak, there will still be challenges and opportunities that each new peak presents to stretch you to grow and hopefully make a great impact, all the days of your life.

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