Congratulations, the outstanding work you’ve completed over the past two years has netted you that big promotion you longed for but secretly doubted you could do.
The good news is that you get a raise in pay, workplace recognition for a job well done and a big hug at home.
The not-so-good news is that you now have to lead a team, something that has you feeling like a fish out of water. You may not realize it, but you’ve just nailed what is known by management theorists as the Peter Principle, named for Laurence J. Peter, the principle’s developer.
According to the theory, you hit your “level of incompetence” when your promotion is based on current performance and not on what skills will be needed in your new role.
If you take on the role and just “do what you can,” often completing your team members’ work, you are going to burn out very quickly and you likely won’t get the respect you need to move forward. You could take a few leadership courses but those probably won’t be enough.
It can be a frightening place to find yourself. Here’s more good news: It doesn’t have to be!
You can transition from a technical job to a leadership role successfully—but not before embarking on your own personal journey of self-discovery.
Leadership is a journey that starts with you. Having a good understanding of who you are will be key to developing your own leadership style.
Where do you want to go as a person and where do you want to take your team? Who do you have to become and what do you have to change to reach your goals?
If you think these questions are a little daunting, think about the cost of not addressing them.
What follows is some of what you will need to find success as a leader.
- Be self-aware — “Know thyself.” Sure, Socrates. Frankly, that sounds a little esoteric. But on the other hand, if you don’t know your own fears, motivations, insecurities, vulnerabilities—what makes you tick—how are you going to deal with unknown and what may appear to be overwhelming new responsibilities? Yes, this, too, can be frightening. But ask anyone who’s ever booked a seat on this journey and you’ll hear that it’s well worth the ticket price.
- Have a diverse network — By building a diverse network, I don’t mean collecting a record-breaking stack of business cards. The number of people you have in your network is not necessarily the key to success. What is important, though, is that you include people from different backgrounds in your network. It’s particularly helpful if they are people who think differently from you. If you hear the same stories from the same point of view all the time, it will hinder your ability to “see” different trends or listen to your own people.
- Have clear vision — Like an eagle, you have to climb high into the sky to see the big picture. This means letting go of the day-to-day activities and trusting your team members. Even if you loved doing some of it and you were very good at it, you have to let someone else do it. They might do it slightly differently, but it’s no longer your job. Your job is to keep a clear vision, set priorities and nurture your team.
- Be a team player — Without a team you are not a leader. Your job is to build bridges, to learn your strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your team members. You need to become an outstanding listener, communicator and influencer. All these skills are critical to becoming a great leader. Don’t dismiss them. Perhaps now is the time to invest in yourself and get the help you need. Think about the cost of ignoring this!
- Be resilient — There is no such thing as failure. A mistake becomes a failure only if you refuse to learn from it. A leader is a courageous, bold and resilient person. In fact, one success predictor includes people who are able to fail, learn from it, and get back to the drawing board quickly.
If you are new to a position or leadership, maybe now is the time to invest into yourself. But don’t just take it from me.
If you get into your new position with a genuine willingness to learn and grow, you will become a great leader. If it’s your first leading position, develop the skills you need and set the foundation for the rest of your career. When your team members look to you for direction, embrace the role with enthusiasm. Become the best leader you’ve ever known!
If you have any thoughts, suggestions or ideas about becoming a leader, I would love to hear them. Simply drop them into the comments below.