Leadership is hard. Being a new leader is even more difficult.
About half of those hired into a leadership position fail. Reasons for this colossal failure rate are many. Sometimes the issues are organizational in nature, such as a lack of leadership training, feedback, mentoring, or a poor hiring processes or dysfunctional culture. Others are caused by personality attributes ill-suited to leadership including arrogance, control issues, insensitivity and selfishness.
But most of the time, the reason for leadership turnover are subtle and spring from a lack of organizational- and self-awareness, as well as the needs of your employees.
The following are leadership lessons I wish someone shared with me 20 years ago before learning them the hard way.
Two Under-appreciated New Leader Issues
First, many new leaders do not know how leadership performance is measured. Front-line staff (and some managers) performance is based largely on “doing” activities such as sales, the number of news releases written or videos produced. New leaders who remain in a “doing” mindset (rather than leading) prevent their team and their organization from reaching its potential.
Leaders are graded on a matrix of factors such as the performance and satisfaction of their team members, political proficiency, emotional intelligence, effective communication and many other “soft” skills.
A second key lesson was: the only person whose behavior I can control is mine. It is a powerful myth that a new title means your every wish will be carried out without any additional effort. Effective leaders communicate objectives, motivate their team to action and direct progress without over or undermanaging. Leaders unable to figure this out will become frustrated and angry that their team members are not mind readers, and end up overmanaging.
6 Additional Tips For New Leaders
Self-awareness. A mentor, coach or therapist (or any combination of the three) is a must for new leaders to help build self-awareness. In order to lead others, you must know yourself, what makes you tick, you blind spots, what drives your best and worst behaviors, and how you appear to others.
See the big picture. Cultivate an understanding how you and your team fit into the organization’s mission, vision, values and business outcomes.
It’s Not About You. If you can’t get the best from your team, you will never reach your potential as a leader.
It’s All About You. All eyes are on you at all times. Leaders must walk their talk. Those who don’t will never be fully trusted by their teams, peers and their own one-up.
Listen. Resist the pressure to jump to solutions when there is a problem. Listen to your team and let them create or co-create new, better ways to do their work.
Remove obstacles. Poor leaders are an obstacle. The best leaders remove them whenever possible to unleash performance and build trust.
Gregory Alford, MS. Psy., is founder of Accelerated Coaching & Consulting LLC, and specializes in business, leadership and life coaching and Marcom consulting.