Are you a 20-30 something and suddenly find yourself in a leadership role? After the initial excitement wears off, you might have one of those “holy crap” moments when reality hits.
How are you going to deal with it?
A few years ago, I changed positions in my company. I still work with the same team, but I now manage the team. When I first took the role, I had never had any experience in managing a group so I knew I had to learn along the way. I also thought it would be good to get my read on, so I started reading books about leadership, asking others for advice, and really trying to understand the role of a leader.
Well, the books didn’t do me much good. I learned quickly that every situation is different and you have to discover your own strategy to fit your situation. I also quickly learned that being a leader is not about what you know, but how you do it. Luckily, I have a mentor that taught me to lead by example, and this has turned out to be the best advice anyone has ever given me. I also have a team that ‘gets it’ and each bring a lot to the team.
I have also learned along the way that you do not need a title to be a leader. Many of the smartest and most creative leaders I know are not the ones running a company or department. They are the quiet, hard-working ones who do not want the glare of the spotlight. They are the ones who work behind the scenes and just ‘get it’. Having a title in front of your name means jack squat when it comes to being a leader.
Here are some of the things I have learned along the way from my mentor, hopefully you find them useful in your situation:
- Lead by example – A real leader will roll up their sleeves and pitch in under any circumstance. Distancing yourself from your team because you are the boss is a guaranteed way to lose your team. Bring great ideas, enthusiasm, and act how you want your team to act. Attitude is like a virus in a team. Make it positive.
- Listen to your team – Just because you are the boss doesn’t mean you suddenly know everything. Every member of your team is there for a reason, and they all bring unique experience, skills and leadership in their own way. Ask for their feedback on a regular basis.
- Never stop thinking – No business stands still. If you do, you may as well close shop. If you are always thinking and evaluating how you do things with a critical eye, and with the input of your team, you will naturally develop great ideas, and find ways to improve what you do.
- Keep your team engaged – Whether through training, team building, or by recognizing great ideas from your team and implementing them, keeping your team engaged is possibly one of the hardest challenges. Many leaders try to come up with ways of getting your team engaged, but in my experience, the best way to keep your team engaged is to listen to them. Find out where they want their role to go, and support the evolution of their position.
- You are human – When I talk to others in the same situation as me, they often stress about mistakes they have made along the way. Sounds like a cliché, but mistakes are truly opportunities when it comes to running a team. No one likes a leader who thinks they shit roses, so when you make a mistake, acknowledge it. It will go a long way with your team to know that their leader is human.
- Go to bat for your team- There is absolutely nothing worse in any work environment, then when you know your leader doesn’t have your back. Supporting your team, and being willing to go to bat and fight the necessary battles is probably one of the most important things I have learned. You will never get your team on the bus if you throw them under it.
One thing that is also very important to remember is to hold yourself accountable. Don’t get complacent in the job you are doing, and be honest with yourself. I have made a tonne of mistakes along the way, but I have learned from every single one.
What tips do you have for others who are new to a leadership role? Share your experiences in the comments.