12 Crucial Details to Remember When You Make the Transition to Leadership

So you’ve just landed your first job in management. While your head is swimming with new potential and excitement, you’re also probably a little (or a lot!) worried about not messing up. You know eyes are on you, not to mention the heavy pressure you’re putting on yourself.

And that pressure can be incredibly intense.

First, take a deep breath and remember you earned this position. Someone saw something in you that they like. They already have trust in your leadership, even though they’ll be expecting a lot.

Next, take some time to understand these 12 crucial principles of leadership:

1. Observe, Observe, Observe

It’s tempting to jump in and make big changes right away to show your decisiveness and leadership, but resist the urge. Spend time observing, listening, and learning about your company and employees.

Even if you’ve been with the company for years, you need to get used to looking at it from a manager’s perspective. If changes need to be made right away, break them down into small steps so your team or department can keep some continuity.

2. Have a Plan

With all that observing, don’t forget you need to have a plan!

Remember — this plan should not be to overhaul the department.

You must first define your plan to win.  Make your plan clear, short and achievable with both short-term and long-term goals. Help your team see the big picture, and inspire them to want it, too. Keep those goals in front of them as you move forward.

3. Meet With Members of Your Team Individually

Take the time to meet with everyone in your department. This will give you a chance to figure out what makes each person tick and how to motivate each individual.

Not only that, but as you show respect to your employees, you’ll have the opportunity to gain support and respect from them — especially from those who are already the most respected in your department.

As you do this, develop a way for each member of your team to excel. Coach and provide feedback to each person’s strengths, goals, and areas of improvement. Help their individual plans align with your department plan.

4. Meet as a Team

Nobody likes change, your employees are probably feeling worried about how you’re going to alter their jobs. Give them an opportunity to have a voice in the group as you meet as a team.

Talk about what everyone sees as strengths and weaknesses in the department. Then build goals and plans from the information you glean from that meeting.

5. Establish Your Credibility

You’re the right person for the job — you know that. Make sure everyone else also knows it by establishing credibility early on.

You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Log some victories early on. This can be as simple as getting rid of a time-sucking daily meeting that really doesn’t accomplish anything.
  • Learn what your employees do. Take the time to understand their day-to-day operations.
  • Help your employees out in a pinch to show you recognize their struggles, and that you know the demands of their job.

6. Be an Example

If you shirk responsibilities, expect your employees to follow suit. Conversely, if you remain composed and reliable, your employees will follow your lead.

Be someone everyone can respect, and allow yourself to be approachable. And above all, follow the rules — especially if you’re the one who set them!

7. Find a Mentor

Cut yourself some slack, and realize you don’t have to go it alone. Find someone who’s been in your position; someone who will have advice for you when you feel like you’re really dropping the ball, and who will watch out for you.

8. Keep it Positive

According to Forbes, people typically remain in their jobs for less than five years, which means your star players will always be looking for a better opportunity somewhere else.

Keep your staff motivated (and more willing to stay with your company) by publicly praising them. Reward excellent results with paid lunch or other tokens of appreciation. Give everyone opportunities to use their talents in working together and collaborating on worthwhile projects.

9. Delegate

You can’t, and shouldn’t, do everything yourself. But delegating doesn’t mean shoving your responsibilities onto someone else’s plate so you can go golfing.

Delegating is assigning tasks that aren’t the best use of your time to someone who will excel at the task. When you do it right, delegation is a win-win. You’re a smart manager for seeing the strength in another and letting them take the lead on something, and the job gets done well.

10. Don’t micromanage

If you’re delegating right, it will keep you from the dreaded micromanagement trap.

Your job is to look at the overall picture, keep your ultimate goals in mind, and make sure your employees, processes, and projects are going to get you there. Share the workload in the most effective ways, but don’t tell your team members exactly how to do their job. Let them determine how to do what you’ve asked.


Before you stepped into leadership, you were used to worrying only about you and your own performance. But when you become a manager, your job is to help your employees.

“Before you were a manager, your number one job was to accomplish tasks,” says Penelope Trunk in 4 Worst Mistakes of a First Time Manager. “Now, your number one job is to help other people accomplish the tasks in an outstanding way.”

11. A Little Humility Goes a Long Way

Credibility is important, but you don’t have to be the all-knowing OZ. Nobody knows everything, and if you act like you do, your employees will see right through you. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something.

Don’t stay in your office all day. Get out among your employees and learn what’s going on. Never take credit for something you didn’t do. These are great ways to show humility as a leader.

12. Be Yourself

Your management style is going to develop over time. Start carefully, and make sure you’re always checking yourself so you remain fair.

Do what feels right for your personality. If your strength is in collaboration, don’t try to be an authoritative boss just because that’s how the previous boss did things.

Do everything you can to read and learn from other great managers.

Ultimately, be yourself. Your strengths will take the lead.
Learn more about leadership training through the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness.

Related Services:

About the Author

CMOE

CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.