Emerging as a leader in your workplace
Many people experience unexpected challenges when they first become a leader or don’t know why they keep getting passed over for a promotion altogether. To understand why emerging as a leader isn’t always easy, let’s start with the question: ‘What exactly is leadership?’
In a nutshell – leadership is an influencing process that involves imagining future possibilities and goals for an organisation, figuring out strategies to achieve those possibilities and – arguably the hardest part – engaging followers to act of their own free will to achieve the goals and enact the strategies set by leadership. If you think that sounds easy, it might be time for a reality check!
Why being a new leader isn’t easy
New leaders face challenges resulting from a range of things including gaps in leadership knowledge, aspects of the actual work situation and the higher level of people skills required in a management role.
To be successful, a leader must exercise a high level of interpersonal skills and have the ability to manage group dynamics – skills a new leader may not even be aware of or, at the very least, need to develop further.
Highly proficient technical staff are often promoted into leadership roles, but capabilities in a technical job may not automatically translate into leadership skills, particularly if no training is provided.
Most new leaders understand their role now involves greater responsibility; however, the underlying complexities and knowledge required are often misjudged. Consider this paraphrased quote from Ben, a new leader who attended one of our courses:
Are leaders born or made?
The good news is that leadership skills can be learnt. Leaders don’t have to be born – they rarely are – and even the best natural born leaders still have a lot of learning to do throughout their lives and careers.
You may or may not be able to change a challenging work situation, but by preparing yourself with the right leadership knowledge and people skills, you can make the transition to a management role a much smoother process.
A small improvement could have a huge impact on your success as a leader, both now and in the future.
With so much to learn, where do you start?
To kick start your leadership development, firstly, identify the current leadership strengths you already have, and then determine the ‘gaps’ where you could improve your skills.
Once you have an understanding of the gaps, work to fill those gaps through learning and consciously applying what you learn in new ways every day.
There are many skills you could focus on, but the following list a good place for emerging leaders and new managers to start. How well do you rate yourself in these areas? Better still, ask someone you trust for feedback on where they think you should focus.
Core leadership skills development areas
1. Managing change
- initiating activity
- adapting to change
- creating and innovating.
2. Interpersonal skills
- communication, listening and support
- managing and working in teams
- building relationships and trust.
3. Taking leadership responsibility
- planning, organising and prioritising goals
- persuading and influencing others
- motivating and empowering
- coaching others
- coping with pressure.
Making the transition
Notice any areas for improvement in the list above? If so, don’t let it discourage you or hold you back from going for that promotion.
You can successfully transition into a leadership role and navigate the complexities through a combination of formal and on-the-job training and application.
There will be challenges, but take deliberate action to become adept at leadership and learn good leadership behaviours, and you will see the benefits.
Whether you manage a rock band or a team of rocket scientists, a small team or a cast of thousands – every team needs someone who can provide direction, guidance, and a sense of purpose. They need a person to take responsibility for their activities and, in turn, their achievements. That person can be you.