I have moments when I wonder if I’ve gotten more than I bargained for.
No one ever gave me a crash course in “Meeting Payroll 101.” “Collection Calls Can Be Fun,” or “Downsizing Staff for Profitability.” I hoped to enjoy the financial rewards of partnership but I found myself having to make a capital contribution to my firm to help it through a lean income period. A mentor of mine later said, “There are a lot of new partners who find they make less as an owner than they did as an employee”.

Thanks. I appreciate the heads up.

The responsibilities of leadership come with the job, as do the rewards. I am happy to say that there are rewards to enjoy also.

I am a 43-year-old partner in my firm, head of the class for Generation X, which spans from 1964 to 1977. I became a partner just over two years ago and made the transition from employee to owner. I’ve worn a few hats in my professional career. Having a variety of experiences to draw from has been one of my most valued “lessons learned.”

I began my career as a communicator, a high school teacher and coach. Later I left public teaching and entered graduate school to work on my advanced degree. I taught for three additional years. For the first decade of my career I made my living talking for more than 10 hours per day to students, faculty, administrators and parents. I discovered that you aren’t just teaching the students you are communicating to a community of people about how things are going.

One of the first people who inspired me to strive for success was Billy Henderson. I was a young coach at Clarke Central High School in Athens, Ga. Billy was a four-time high school All American, a successful college athlete and a renowned coach with five state championship trophies. One day we were reviewing our practice adjustments and I spoke up and added my evaluation. I’ll never forget the way Coach looked at me and said, “That’s right on. You will do whatever you want someday.” He was the first professional to really believe in me and it started me on the path that I find myself today.

Gen Xers are assuming leadership positions in firms and they face all of the challenges business owners face. My first challenge was to think like an owner. It sounds simple, but if you have always had an employee mindset, it’s not something you do automatically.

You have to change your default setting, but how? 

As an assistant coach, I thought like an employee. As a teacher, I always reported to someone else. Working in a business I always had a boss. I was never in the “buck stops here” position. Experts on change often tout a model of skill development that looks something like this:

1) You first have to change your thinking. 
2) Your thinking will change your beliefs. 
3) Your beliefs will change your actions.
4) Your actions will ultimately change your behavior.

I take a different approach and the concept comes from developmental psychology. It’s known as PRAXIS. Praxis states that in order to change your behavior you first have to change your actions. Your thinking has little to no effect until you actually begin taking action. Changing action creates the momentum that you need to make decisions, stress existing capabilities and develop new capacity. Beliefs will follow action and the more successful action you execute the more your skills grow.
Leadership is about execution.

Leaders get things done. Acting like a leader is challenging. But when you get in the game, experience new successes and have a plan to replicate that success, then you develop a discipline. A leadership discipline. It all starts with the plan and the team you place around you that supports your execution.

Scott Bradbary is the vice president and director of training at The Rainmaker Academy in Nashville, Tenn. He can be reached at (615)373-9880 or scott@therainmakeracademy.com.