top of page

How To Advance From Doer to Leader

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Over the weekend, I officially became a parent to an adult. My daughter turned 18 and is headed off to college in a few weeks.

Kelli Thompson, her daughter and husband
18th Birthday Party

This summer has caused to me stop and reflect on my parenting, how I've done for 18 years, and what needs to change as she enters the next phase of her life. More specifically, I've been forced to reconsider all the places in her life I've been overparenting. It comes from an empathetic, well-intentioned place. I definitely find it hard to watch her struggle or fail, so I keep an eye on her bank accounts, remind her of upcoming appointments or “save” her when she forgets something. While this feels good in moment to relieve her of her struggles, I know this isn't preparing her for the real world. I've had to pull back and allow her to make small mistakes with money, schedules and life so she can build the independence and confidence she needs to thrive on her own. Easier said than done. The same is true with leadership. I don't think we realize how often we overlead or overcoach our teams by jumping in and saving the day. I know when I was in corporate, we'd promote people from doer to leader and assume a magic transformation would happen - that they'd suddenly feel comfortable delegating, coaching and watching others struggle without stepping in. The struggle is where the magic of learning and building confidence in their skills happens. To make the shift from doer to leader, we have to make the shift from being good at and motivated by performance excellence and rewards to excelling at and caring deeply about developing others’ potential. This mindset shift from doer to leader may be the hardest part of all. Keep reading to help you make this shift.

A side by side chart
Shift From Doer to Leader


To shift from doer to leader the mindset shift may be the hardest of all. We spend most of our lives earning accolades as the fixer, the achiever and the responsible ones. So, when we are promoted into leadership, we can choose to be the one who does everything and enjoys rewards as an individual contributor, or we can learn to delegate and embrace the rewards that come from coaching people through the learning process.

  1. Notice your payoff from doing. The thrill of achievement provides a quick dopamine hit. But that’s something you need to resist to get to the greater fulfillment of having helped others improve.

  2. Claim your leadership identity by getting clear on values. Ask yourself: What three words do I want people to use to describe my leadership style? For example: Do I want to lead with control, urgency, and expertise? Or, with patience, curiosity, and empowerment?

  3. Be intentional about responding, not reacting. In the moments where you are triggered to step in, ask yourself: Would that be aligned with my values and who I want to become as a leader?

What would you add to these tips? Or, which one will you try in your journey from doing to leading? I'd love to know!

To read more of my tips to help you grow in your employee development, be sure to check out my article in the Harvard Business Review.

Kelli Thompson is a women's leadership coach, speaker and author who helps women advance to the rooms where decisions are made. She offers 1-1 private coaching and is the founder of the Clarity & Confidence Women's Leadership program (online group training for corporate women leaders). She is the author of Closing The Confidence Gap: Boost Your Peace, Your Potential & Your Paycheck.

30 views0 comments


bottom of page