Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Can I Really Do it All?

Author By Jim Lara
compass that says leadership - can I really do it all?

As a leader, do you ever find yourself looking in the mirror and asking yourself, “Can I really do it all?”

If so, following is an interesting exercise. See if you recognize yourself in the following story…

Can I Really Do it All?

Whether it’s flying, performing maintenance on the aircraft, or pulling off scheduling miracles, you’ve worked hard to get where you are. You’ve become very accomplished at your “doing” role within the aviation organization. And, the truth is, you really love what you “do.”

You’ve performed at such a high level, in fact, that your organization has recognized your outstanding performance consistently over the last several evaluation periods.

And now you’ve “gotten the nod” to lead the department. That potentially means more money, more status, more prestige and more organizational power.

You respond with an enthusiastic “Sure, I’m in!” And, for all intents and purposes, you’ve just been anointed as a “leader.”

Great, right? Or, maybe not so great.

Because, as a newly minted leader, your professional world just changed dramatically.

Remember that one, job-related thing you used to “do” that really got your juices flowing? That special function or task that always gave you a tremendous sense of accomplishment—the feeling that came from actually rolling up your sleeves and”doing”?

But now that you’re a leader, it seems that you don’t really get to “do” that much any more.

Maybe, in your new role, you’re taking on a broader range of overall management responsibilities and delegating those “fun and rewarding” tasks to someone else. And maybe it’s got you feeling like you’re “chained” to the office.

So you think to yourself, “Maybe I should go see my team, ask how things are going and see if I can help them out.”

And then, once you’re out there on the hangar floor or back on the flight deck, that comfortable old feeling comes rushing back, and you say to yourself: “Wow, it really feels great to be out of the office and back here with my team. Let’s see how things are going. Oh man, Project No. 1 looks like it’s behind. And Project No. 2 has been restarted twice. What? We were late on two trips this week due to mechanicals?”

Now, it’s really decision time. What should you do? The answer is clear—and right therein front of you. You jump into what’s familiar, comfortable and rewarding. You get back to the “doing!”

It really feels good getting back to “doing,” doesn’t it? Things are getting back on track. In fact, it’s feeling so good that you are beginning to “do” more and more.

OK, it’s time take a little break from our “story.”

Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you might already be aware that your first leadership position is absolutely the toughest. You’re so close to what you’ve”done” in the past to achieve success and the rewards associated with stellar performance, and yet you’re so far from what the organization really needs … leadership.

So, what should you do?

In all probability, you will end up “doing”more.

And then, eventually, you may notice that some of the other formerly “high-performance doers” in your organization have moved into an observer’s role. When you were back there in the office, they were “doing,” but now that you’re out here “doing”again—and because you “do” it so well—maybe they’d better just hang around on the sidelines and watch you “do” it.

And what happens?

You find yourself working harder and longer than ever.

The disappointing part is that despite all that you are “doing,” less is getting done effectively, the organization’s ability to perform is slipping, and some HR problems are bubbling under the surface.

Maybe, for the very first time, there’s a knot tightening in your gut.

You know what maybe no one else knows that, in fact,you’re failing. Why? It’s simple.

You’re not leading.

Time to Hit the Reset Button

Does your first journey into the “Land of Leadership” always have to be this painful? No, but in truth, it usually is!

Because most of us don’t understand—until we are looking in our career’s rear view mirror—that “leadership” is a true and very specific calling.

It’s a clear, deliberate career path choice.

The least painful path into leadership is to try it on for size, on a limited scale, with a safety net below you.

That means becoming an “Assistant Something” and, most importantly, working with a great mentor who is committed to your development and life-long success.

Your mentor will guide you, behind the scenes, to define a series of development steps that will enable you to gain the leadership skill sets and experience to prepare you for success in leading—with a lot less “doing.”

Somewhere along the way, it will become clear to you and your mentor where your passions are truly focused.

If, in all honesty, you really get your satisfaction and rewards from “doing,” by all means pursue that career path. If, on the other hand, you are gaining great satisfaction from facilitating the successful execution of the operational mission through the team that you are leading, then stay on the Leadership Path.

Remember, true leaders only “do”three things:

  1. Set direction
  2. Remove barriers
  3. Provide resources

The successful leader is much like the conductor of a symphony orchestra. Although he might be a master musician, his only instrument is the conductor’s baton, which,when applied as it was intended, produces some of the world’s greatest music.

So, can you really “do” it all?

Maybe so,but it all depends on your definition of “doing,” and whether or not you’re ultimately happier rolling up your sleeves and personally performing the job at hand, or serving as the one who’s leading the organization to make it all happen.

Your answer to that “fork in the road” question will help you decide whether the Leadership Path is the right path for you.


Can I really do it all? It’s up to you.

Here at Gray Stone Advisors, we coach many aviation professionals every week, helping them to clearly think through what’s best for them and their organizations.

Our conversations are totally confidential, so there’s absolutely no risk, just peace of mind when you discover your true calling. Give us a call at+1-865-357-5077 or send me an email.