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So You're a Leader, now what?

I remember asking myself this exact question when I started in my first leadership role. There I was going from being very good at my job, to being “rewarded” for my efforts by being promoted into a leadership role that I had no idea how to do? Exciting and terrifying at the same time. I had never managed people before, and had no idea how to go about it. Experts seem to write about how to be a good leader all the time, so that made me feel even more like there was a mountain of knowledge that I just didn’t have. Then the self-doubt kicked in. Are they sure they have made the right decision? It is just a matter of time before they realise that I am not the right person for this job. Good old Imposter syndrome.

I know that there are many of you reading this right now, saying, “Yes, exactly!”. I know because, you are not alone, I hear this same story all the time.

Competent, Trustworthy and Respected, is that too much to ask?

There are so many competing emotions when you start your first leadership role. They are a mix of wanting to appear competent, particularly if you have already established a reputation within an organisation, wanting your team to like, trust and respect you, and wanting to appear impressive and capable to your new boss. Adding to this, you have that soupy mix of conscious and unconscious incompetence. In other words, you not only know there are things that you don’t know, but you also don’t know what you don’t know. No wonder its tough!

Let me help you….

Well let me offer some words of advice from someone who has been there, done that and come out the other side having learnt a lot!

1. Make a 90 day plan.

The learning curve can be (and usually is) very steep. Add to this the responsibility of ensuring the productivity of others in addition to your own workload and everything can get pretty overwhelming. The danger of overwhelm is that it can be paralysing and stop you from moving forward with anything. The secret is to chunk it down into a 90 day plan, then chunk that down into monthly goals, then chunk that down into weekly milestones, then chunk that down into daily tasks. Having some clear goals simplified into achievable tasks helps you to get forward momentum and make a difference in the early days.

2. Take the time to really understand your team.

There is no substitute for this. If you were limited to doing just one thing as a new leader, this would be it. There is a major mindset shift that needs to take place when you transition from doing the work yourself, to getting work done through others. Your aim is to have a team of people who are swimming in the same direction as you and who want to follow you. This can only be achieved through creating respectful and trusting professional relationships and asking them how you can add value to their day. Understanding what motivates and engages every individual in your team is the secret to creating a cohesive and productive team. Remember that we are all individuals and what works for someone might not work for others.

3. Think like a leader by getting in your helicopter.

The fastest way to earn respect from the senior leaders is to show that you can step out of the day to day and look at the bigger picture. It is imperative that all leaders connect with the vision and purpose of the organisation. That means taking a helicopter view of the organisation and its position in the market from time to time. To look into the future and think strategically. Submitting just one bold suggestion about how the organisation can add value, improve its service delivery or increase the efficiency of its operations to show that you are taking initiative and thinking bigger will make you stand out. However, remember that you are not there to change the world in the first quarter, quality over quantity.

This should get you started. Good luck and if you need help, give me a call!


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