Chief Executive Insights

How levelling up can supercharge your career

You wanted a leadership role because you love what you do, and you know deep down that you can do a good job as a leader. 

However, you may have found that you are going to more meetings, including those with members of your team, so that you stay across everything and make sure the team is getting it right. You’re starting work earlier, finishing later, then working again after the family is in bed.  You’ve spent the weekend trying to catch up on the work you didn’t get done last week. 

There is so much to do. There is a queue of people at your desk, or sending you instant messages, and asking you questions. It’s faster to give the answer than take the time to help them work it out for themselves.

It’s not your fault that you’re stuck in a vicious cycle of reacting, redoing, and responding. Quite simply, this is because people new to managing are not usually taught to how to level up. Now, in this state of overwhelm you are operating at a level too low. You are too immersed in the detail, which means you are pushing your team down and they will be operating at a level below where they should and can be.

Levelling up takes is a mindset shift and some improvement in your behavioural skills. Also called ‘soft’ or ‘people’ skills, behavioural skills are crucial as you start to lead people. Behavioural skills include things like: how you are communicating and listening, being able to deal with challenging people, giving and receiving feedback, building rapport, delegating, and managing conflict, to name a few.

When you start to level up, you can start focusing on doing less of the work that your team should be doing and building your team’s capability so they can perform better and take on more responsibility.

That’s the thing about leading. The person you were in your old, technical role must morph into another style of person. You need to approach things differently to lead the team well, so that you’re all performing at the right level. This is about letting go of what you used to do.

Ask yourself: how are you really getting on in this new management role; and do you find it easier to do everything yourself rather than teaching others what you know?

Levelling up

Levelling up means you are focusing on the work appropriate for your pay grade and leads you to becoming an effective leader. It’s about being prepared to: let go of your perfectionism; your need to control everything; and the need to stay across the smallest details of what your team is doing.

It reduces the risk of feeling overwhelmed and burning out and allows you to start to shine as a leader. Your team wants to be able to learn from you and be inspired to level up as well.

Then you are moving from being a transactional manager to a transformational leader, as shown in below.

A Transactional Manager versus a Transformational Leader

  • Is still doing the tasks from their old role that other people are now employed to do versus understanding what they should be doing and what the team should be doing
  • Thinks there is only one way – their way versus understanding that there are different ways to achieve a result
  • Struggles to let go of doing everything versus able to let go of the technical work and let their team get on with it
  • Disempowers their team versus empowers their team
  • Doesn’t have time to focus on future goals and outcomes versus focuses on meaningful, well-defined goals and outcomes that align with organisational purpose and strategy

When you level up the whole team’s productivity increases, as does team engagement and collaboration, and the team can take on extra responsibility. You have some time back in your day to start focussing on that higher value, future focused work you didn’t have time for before, and more time outside of work to relax and rejuvenate.

You start to be noticed for the good work you and your team are doing and your career will start to soar. This is leading, which requires new skills, so be prepared to become a learner again.


Written by Maree Burgess.
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Maree Burgess
Maree Burgess, author of Level Up ($29.95), is a trainer, coach, facilitator, author and speaker whose practicality supports leaders and teams to create cultures that people want to be part of and perform at their best for, to greatly improve overall performance. Obsessed with building environments of excellence where staff collaborate and work well together, she is renowned for bringing out the best in teams and individuals alike.


Maree Burgess is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.