Having technical expertise and knowledge does not mean that a person has leadership skills. Rather than only being able to manage, a leader’s success is measured by their capability of bringing people together under a collective purpose and vision. The transition periods of new leaders can be difficult because many are not taught the skills to meet these new expectations.
CMOE’s extended research indicates the characteristics that team members find most desirable in their leaders, and the top three are communication skills, interpersonal skills, and their values and ethics. Unfortunately, these results conflict with the fact that many new leaders were promoted to their leadership roles because they could manage their individual tasks well. Here is a list of five reasons that some new leaders struggle in their positions and some suggestions on how to make the transition easier.
Struggle 1: Collaboration
A leader’s success depends in part on their ability to master the fundamentals of management—planning, organization, and staffing—combined with and supported by people-leadership traits. The leader must now work strategically and collaboratively to support their team rather than going into the field or performing minor tasks. New leaders must try to improve their skills in communicating and collaborating to make this transition easier.
Struggle 2: Releasing Control and Trusting Team Members
Many new leaders have trouble delegating because they are used to completing tasks themselves. But the leader cannot do everything, and they must trust their team members to perform and complete tasks just as successfully as they would. By delegating, the leader will be able to perform all their new responsibilities.
Struggle 3: Needing to Learn and Grow
During this transition period, the leader should be learning about the team members, tasks, processes, and leadership techniques. If the leader resists this process of learning and growth, their leadership abilities are restricted. Leaders can’t expect others to grow and develop if they don’t model that behavior themselves. They must be worth emulating.
Instead, the leader must seek out situations that they would learn from, such as sitting in on meetings and asking for feedback. The leader can also seek out books and courses that can guide them into this new role. Leaders must embrace this change and the opportunity it gives them.
Struggle 4: Meaningful Communication
Teamwork is founded on the ability to communicate and share thoughts and ideas. The new leader may be unwilling to engage in a candid dialogue, but people need a leader who can share important information and artfully engage in dialogue and other modes of communication. Beyond speaking, people in our study indicated that the most critical communication skill is the ability to listen. If the new leader is struggling with communication, they should schedule 1 on 1s with their team members, so that they must engage in this dialogue.
Struggle 5: Maintaining a Healthy Work-Life Balance
The new leader may feel intense pressure to succeed and work more than they expected when taking the position. Rest is a necessary part of working, and if a person does not schedule it in, their body will. The new leader’s unhealthy work-life balance will eventually lead to burn out and decreased abilities to lead. The new leader must set boundaries between their work life and their life outside the building, whether that be by turning off email notifications or leaving at a specific time every day. These boundaries will ensure that the leader is getting the rest that they need.
By identifying reasons why new leaders struggle, we can help to support and teach new leaders to ensure their success. Being a leader extends beyond product or process knowledge, and helping leaders make that transition will support the abilities of the leader, the team, and the organization itself.
If Transitioning Into Leadership or Leadership are skills that you would like to improve, visit CMOE’s website for leadership products and services.