Transitioning Into A Leadership Role
Have you ever wondered why many people in leadership roles suck at what they do?
People leave managers – not companies. This doesn’t say much for the leadership skills in most workplaces, does it?
According to a recent Gallup poll of more than one million people employed by U.S. workers concluded that the number one reason people quit their jobs was due to a bad boss. Statistically, 75% of workers report the main reason they quit their job was because of their boss and not the position they held.
Just because you have been appointed to a supervisory or management role, it doesn’t mean you will be an effective leader.
Transitioning from an employee to a manager and leadership role requires a different set of skills. To do this effectively the first question to ask yourself is, “Where did you learn your leadership skills?
Where Did You Learn Your Leadership Skills?
Somewhere along the line, you learned what leadership is or isn’t.
Leadership is a learned behavior.
Take a line through your parents and their parenting style. Where did they learn to parent? Probably from their parents. What happens is, we follow the same patterns of behaviors we inherited from our parents. If you are brought up in a negative household where you received a daily dose of negativity, chances are this is how you approach parenting.
If you were promoted to a supervisor role or a management role, chances are your leadership style will be similar to the previous leaders you worked under.
What if they were a poor leader?
Transitioning Into a Leadership Role
Leadership is not a position nor is it a title.
When we think of leadership, we often put it into the perspective of running a business, being the captain of a sports team, or even running a country.
In business, we say company leaders are a supervisor, manager, boss, owner, or CEO. Yes, these are all leadership positions, but it doesn’t necessarily make them effective as a leader. They might manage a business unit; it doesn’t automatically make them a leader. At best it makes them a boss.
What you are probably not aware of, not all leaders are in a formal leadership position. Sometimes the real leader is the one who sits below the “appointed leader.” If so – watch out.
Leadership is about having followers. Followers you can influence. If you have no followers, then you are not a leader because you have no influence. Being the “boss” doesn’t necessarily give you influence. It gives you the power to hire and fire – but not influence.
Leadership is not a title. Leadership is something that is earned, not given.
Those who are new to business ownership or management frequently think their ‘appointed position’ or ownership of a business entitles them to be the leader. Their approach is simply “tell their subordinates to do something” and they will respond accordingly.
This is not necessarily the case. In fact, the brighter the subordinate, the less likely they are to blindly follow orders from the boss.
Transitioning into a leadership role requires a new set of skills.
Leadership Requires a New Set of Skills
What happens in average organizations, employees are promoted to leadership positions and not trained how to become a manager or leader. It’s a case of “You are a manager now – go manage!”
This approach sets them up for failure because they aren’t given the necessary coaching, mentoring, or support they need to succeed.
This is a recipe for disaster.
It’s vital you develop a new set of skills when transitioning into a leadership role.
Transitioning Into a Leader Takes Time
Remember when you were straight out of school, freshly anointed with a high school or college degree. You had lots of education but no experience. Transitioning into the real world at work is a huge learning experience. Nothing prepares you for this transition completely as every workplace is different just as every boss is different.
First-day nerves and anxiety set in. Having to remember names, processes, procedures, policies and other workplace rules can be terrifying. That’s because we all come with different skill sets and confidence levels.
It takes time to become comfortable in a new role.
This is the same for moving into a management or leadership role. It takes time to build your confidence levels and develop a new set of skills. The fastest way to transition into a management or leadership position is by investing in professional development activities.
To become an effective leader, it’s also important to understand how to develop a leadership style that resonates with your people.
Growing Your Confidence as a Leader
There are a number of leadership styles you can adopt. According to Daniel Goleman in his book Primal Leadership, he advocates the theory of “6 leadership styles.”
Goleman states that only two of these styles are effective when used consistently. As you grow into a confident leader, you will uncover which are the best to use in what circumstances as they can all be effective in their own way.
However, a trap for those transitioning into a leadership role is thinking everything will go smoothly. They often think they can fix everything that’s wrong immediately. That’s because they are anxious to show everyone who’s boss. All you must do is tell people what to do and they will do it!
This is a myth because people hate being told what to do.
Being the boss is a title only and to be effective, you need to earn the trust and respect of your people first.
The key to successfully transitioning into a leadership role is to learn. This means engaging in personal development and professional development activities to build your knowledge base. As you engage in learning new skills, your confidence levels will grow accordingly.
To fast-track your results, here are 11 tips to fast-track your leadership skills as you transition into a management and leadership role.
11 Tips to Fast-Track Your Leadership Skills
1. Lift Yourself Out of Using Your Technical Skills
When you first start out working, you use your highly developed technical or specialist skills. This is what you are trained and qualified to do.
In this role:
- You use your technical skills.
- You have a heavy focus on doing.
- Your results are measured as an individual.
- You achieve individual success.
- You focus primarily on the present.
- Your focus is on your individual needs.
- You are evaluated from above – your boss and your boss’s boss.
- Few people make demands on your time.
At this level in the workforce, you are not expected to have developed strategic thinking skills or leadership skills.
2. Develop Your Strategic Thinking Skills
To transition into a successful leadership role, forget about operating the business at a technical level and begin operating at a strategic or conceptual level.
As a manager and leader, you should be using less of your technical or specialist skills and more of your leadership, management, and people skills. As you gain confidence in the role then you can begin to develop your strategic thinking skills.
In a management and leadership role:
- You develop teams.
- You balance the needs of the team.
- You are measured by the results of your team.
- Your primary focus is on the future.
- You are evaluated by all stakeholders.
- You have major power or influence over others.
- Many people make demands on your time.
These aren’t the technical doing skills – these are the managing and leading skills.
3. Develop Effective Communication Skills
Underpinning your transition into a new manager and leader is the management of people.
To successfully manage people, you must develop high-level communication and people skills. If you can’t manage people, you will struggle to grow into a leadership role.
In any organization, sales, marketing, administration, finance, customer support, technology, purchasing, and any other business function should all have management systems in place to control them. These business functions cannot work in isolation as they overlap.
You need to be able to work across all business functions to be effective.
4. Foster Effective Teamwork
The single most significant skill you need in transitioning into a manager and leader is the ability to build effective teams and partnerships. This only works if you are able to influence and motivate others.
If you can’t create an effective team by earning their respect, you will find team members who will revolt. They won’t cooperate. They will tell you, “That’s not my job!” and won’t do what’s asked of them.
Your success as a leader is dependent on the success of the people you lead. You need team members to work across all business units. If they don’t, it creates silos where one team doesn’t work well with another team. When this happens, it causes internal relationships to go sour, teams become dysfunctional. This means you won’t be able to achieve organizational goals.
5. Lead Through a Compelling Vision
One of the traits of being an effective manager and leader is to set the direction of the business with a powerful vision for the future. A vision motivates, goals don’t.
On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream Speech in which he called for the end to racism in the United States. There were over 250,000 people gathered that day to hear him speak along with many more watching on television or listening to him on the radio.
King did not say to all these people “I have a plan,” Martin Luther King was a visionary. He inspired a nation with his vision for the future.
6. Get Your People Involved in a Shared Vision
Dictating a top-down vision doesn’t work.
To build an effective team means you need to bring everyone together and create a shared vision. The only way for this to work is to involve your people. Conduct a brainstorming session and ask them for their views, their thoughts their feelings on how they would like to see the business succeed. This approach allows you to create a vision your team feels part of and helps cement your place as a great leader.
For a shared vision to become reality, you need good systems and processes in place.
7. Develop Effective Systems and Processes
A well-functioning business is only as good as your systems and processes.
McDonald’s have perfected their systems and processes so that when you order a burger and fries, it’s consistent every time, anywhere you go in the world. It’s the same with Starbucks – their coffee is consistent anywhere you go (even in Japan.)
When you transition into a manager and leader, one of your roles is to ensure that all your systems and processes work.
As a leader, involve your people by asking them where the blockages are. Let them come up with ideas on what works and what doesn’t. Collectively brainstorm ideas and agree on a process improvement plan and together implement the plan as a team.
8. Follow Up and Review
Regularly follow up and review the systems and processes you’ve put in place. Business is never static, change happens around you – with or without your permission. It’s important to ensure your systems and processes are relevant to the changing needs of the business.
If you put good people in to operate poor systems and processes, you are setting them up to fail. Why? Because what you will see is the people using the systems as failing, not the flaws in the system itself. This can be very demotivating for your team and will ultimately lead to good people leaving.
9. Train Your People
One of the biggest failings of those new to leadership is failing to induct, train, coach, and mentor their people against clearly communicated standards.
You cannot manage a team member effectively if they don’t know what is expected of them. Keep an eye on new hires to ensure they achieve the standards you expect. Give constant feedback for what they’re doing well so they continue to do more of it. Feedback should be positive more than negative.
Even if you hire a new person who has all the skills and attributes you require, it doesn’t mean they know what to do despite their previous experience. They may have worked for a boss who had different expectations.
Regardless of their experience and qualifications, they will have to live up to your expectations as their manager and leader, not someone they previously worked for.
10. Articulate Agreed Standards
Before you can lead a team effectively, you need to articulate the expected standards. This is usually in the form of a well-written job description or a set of key performance indicators (KPIs).
When you communicate the expected standards, your team will know exactly what is expected of them. This will make it easier for you to manage them. You cannot manage what you cannot measure.
11. Keep Your People Accountable
When you assume responsibility as a new leader, you become accountable to some form of authority.
You are usually measured against a set of key performance indicators and you might be measured on how well you manage your budget or control labor costs. You might be measured by your health and safety record or how well you manage risk. You might be measured by how profitable your business is and how well you manage overheads.
Regardless of the metric, no doubt you will be kept accountable. This should be the same for your people.
If you are an entrepreneur you will still be accountable for performance. It might be to your bank, a private equity firm or venture capitalist, or even other shareholders and investors. The better your leadership skills, the better your results will be.
Leading the Way is Complex
Leading the way is the most complex and rewarding part of transitioning into a leadership role.
Leading others is not simply a matter of style. Effective leadership seldom results from a lack of know-how. It’s more a result of a lack of self-awareness and a willingness to learn and grow.
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Learning to lead, learning to run a business is no easy task. It takes time and education to transform yourself into the leader you want to be. It all starts with learning how to hire and manage people. It is your communication and people skills that separate the wheat from the chaff.
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