The moment you accept your first real “leadership” position is not one you’re likely to forget. It’s thrilling, exhilarating, and intimidating all at once. It’s humbling too, to realize that all business leaders were in your shoes once, and now the spotlight is shining on you.
And now that your hard work has earned you the position you dreamed of, you have to gear up for the task of establishing yourself as a leader.
It’s possible that up until this point, you only understood leadership as a position, or a role. The truth is, every first-time leader is thrown by the magnitude of complexities they have to face as the person in command.
This is especially the case when an employee who has shown remarkable prowess in the technical aspects of their job, is promoted into a leadership role. Oftentimes, the employee may not have any suitable leadership training at the time of assuming this role.
It is generally perceived that a high level of capability in certain skill sets will inevitably translate into high level of capability in leadership. When in fact, leadership is largely concerned with being highly efficient in areas beyond the technical aspects of the work.
Entering into this role blindly is likely to cause you anxiety and uncertainty – not the best way to kick off your first leadership opportunity.
This article will help you prepare for the tacit challenges coming your way, and allow you to tackle them confidently rather than succumbing to them.
Challenge #1: The Pressure to Succeed Immediately
Almost as soon as you start out, you will begin to feel an overwhelming sense of pressure to succeed right away. You’ve been given an incredible opportunity and you want to strive to prove you are worth it.
You’ll constantly feel the need to “do something” – and this also stems from senior leaders expecting a new leader to correct existing problems within the department.
If you start out performing under such pressure, that will make it all the more challenging for you to thrive in your new position.
Your superiors may be expecting you to make immediate improvements in one area of the department or another. Your team members (who may have very recently been your peers) will also be watching to see what “progress” the new leader makes.
However, every seasoned leader will tell you this: true, lasting leadership success requires time. You cannot accomplish it overnight. I never expect a new leader to succeed immediately. In fact, most bosses are more interested in lasting change – because it highlights a most valuable leadership quality in an individual: perseverance.
Success often has much more to do with perseverance than it does with a person’s innate qualities. That isn’t to say talent doesn’t matter, just that it only goes so far without sacrifice and effort.
Challenge #2: Determining Your Leadership Approach
One of the aspects of your new role that will present as a challenge is learning the best leadership style to adapt for your team. The initial weeks will be the time when you must learn about the personalities of your team members and adjust your leadership approach to each member in order to lead them successfully.
You may feel torn between different leadership styles, feeling unsure about which is the correct approach for a particular situation.
At this point, recall the leadership styles of your previous bosses. You’ll remember having egotistical, or easy-to-anger bosses, or bosses who felt the need to throw their weight around in order to make their staff respect them – these were likely the bosses whom you were least eager to work for.
This is the ideal opportunity for you to draw from your experiences as a team member and recall what qualities and behaviours you expected or desired from your own leaders.
Learn from your previous leaders’ successes and failures so you can avoid certain situations that you witnessed them experience. Reflect on the times where you thought about what you would do if you were in their place.
When finding the right leadership style, focus on your team members’ personalities rather than on trying to establish dominance through your role. This will help develop you into a well-liked, well-respected leader that your team is happy to work for.
The best leaders don’t know just one style of leadership—they’re skilled at several, and have the flexibility to switch between styles as the circumstances dictate.
Challenge #3: Communicating Objectives and Expectations to Your Team
Guiding your team to success is essentially your pivotal task as a new manager. The way to achieve that success is by ensuring that your team members have clearly defined directions and common goals to achieve.
Set objectives and key outcomes are an excellent way to align everyone on your team, because they enable you to set expectations in a very straight-forward manner. This will also provide both you and your team members with measurable results.
What makes this task all the more challenging is when you’ve been promoted to a management position internally. It’s probable that some former co-workers now make up your team, which often creates some awkward to navigate situations.
While you’re arranging meetings and discussions to define goals and objectives, this is the ideal opportunity to build a strong foundation with your team members in your new role as leader.
Use effective communication to relay your expectations and requirements to your team, and strive to understand the communication dynamics of the group. The way we speak, and the way we listen play an imperative role in the way to collaborate and demonstrate excellent team work. This will enable you to really strengthen how you work together as a team.
Remember that although you’re leading, you’re still a member of your team. When you meet with your team to set objectives and define key results, let them know you’re still part of the team, and your role is to support your employees and empower them with the resources and feedback they need to succeed.
“A first-time leadership job is very stressful. There’s a significant change in roles and responsibilities. Success comes not from what you do…but from what you do to grow and develop others.”
– Richard Wellins
Read More: 3 Most Common Leadership Training Mistakes