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Scaling Issues #1: Relationships

People experiencing the increase in scope and scale in what they are responsible for as leaders find that it affects their relationships. More to the point, it has to do with how you know most others, and how you are known by them. Scaling stresses your paradigm when your visibility in greater systems increases to the point when many people you don’t really know believe they know you, regardless of the substance of the data about you available to them. They believe they know what you are made of and what you care about, and how good you are at whatever it is you are doing. Your reputation is almost fully out of your control: Not just in the closed-door talent reviews, but in the hallways and cafes, the conference calls without you and the let-it-all-hangout conversations random employees have over drinks.

Now, you’ve lost most of what used to seem like “off stage” and small things you do in the here and now become relayed and amplified into stories about you, often in a decontextualized way. Moreover, key stakeholders, at least those who often do not have the benefit of long-term relationships with you, know first by reputation and secondly in small encounters. Impressions form, or reputation is reinforced or shifted. This often gets lumped into organizational politics—which may be as much about what others believe you represent as about you personally. It may arises out of the more disordered affairs that leave people needing to continually sort out how the “game” is being played and how you fit into it. All of this demands that your paradigm for leading at scale adjust to incorporate significant effort into what for most of you is a whole new line of work: addressing how you are known in the system and how you want to be known. Not just you, but whatever it is that you are trying to make happen.