In 1963, Richard Burton advanced from mere fame into superstar status when he signed to play Mark Antony in the movie Cleopatra. It was on the set of that movie that he and Elizabeth Taylor began the love affair that would rid them each of their spouses and put them together, at least for a while. They married and divorced twice.
Even though Burton was already a star and had done several films, he was still primarily a stage actor. Taylor was the more experienced film actress. She helped Burton develop the specific skills that make for a great movie performance.
At one point, when he had just done some histrionic stage-actor thing Taylor is reported to have said, “My God, Richard, you can’t do it that way! You’re forty feet tall!”
Her point was that the very actions that were effective for a stage actor might be outrageous when your image was projected on a forty-foot-high screen. Being a screen actor called for different behavior and different skills.
The same thing is true when you become a boss, someone responsible for the performance of a group. Suddenly your actions have an outsized effect. Things that worked just fine when you were an individual contributor can become ineffective, destructive, or even ludicrous when you’re the boss.
When you become a boss it’s like you’re suddenly on a forty foot high screen. Everything you do is visible and magnified and has outsized effect. People observe what you say and do intently, seeking clues about what they should say and do.
Richard Burton learned to master the subtle gestures and movements of the screen actor. You can learn to master the effective techniques a boss needs. It takes work and it takes time but you can do it.
You won’t become effective all at once. My book, Become a Better Boss One Tip at a Time, can help make small improvements that add up to significant progress.