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Basic rules for anyone new to leadership

New to leadership?

Moving into a new to leadership role is daunting for anyone, particularly if you haven’t had any leadership experience before.  Here are some simple tips for making the adjustment, and setting yourself up for success in your new leadership role.


Understand that as a new leader you don’t need to know everything, but be clear on what you do need to know.

We can put serious pressure on ourselves when we first move into a new role to be seen as an expert on everything. You know, all over it. In those precious first couple of months of a new job focus on what you do need to know about. If in doubt, ask. Don’t fall into the trap of doing what you know.  For example: do you need to manage the budget for the team now?  Make sure that you speak to someone in finance about what you need to do.  It is easy to continue to do the things that you already know, as a leader, chances are you will have to do tasks that you haven’t done before.  Make sure you understand the tasks that are critical to your success.


Don’t rush in to change everything, even if you think it is totally stuffed.

Achieving change is difficult in the best of circumstances, when you have full context.  When you start in a role, you do not have full context.  A process that from the outside appears stupid, may have a very real reason for being in place. I learnt this the hard way a few years back.  New to my job, I wanted to kick a few goals early on.  A particular process was in place that was time consuming, onerous and required double handling of data. I seized on the process and immediately put in place a more streamlined practice. Everyone seemed happy. That was, until we had an audit and I realised that our contract required the old process to be in place.  I kicked a goal alright, an own goal!


Accept early on that not all of your staff will like you.

Even if you are the nicest, fairest, best boss in the world – not all of your staff will like you.  Every individual that ever works for you will come with their own world view.  That might include hating the boss, as a principle.  They might want your job, or think that you shouldn’t have it.  Or, they simply might not like the cut of your jib.  Whatever the reason, try not to expend too much energy on the folks that decide not to like you.  Work how to best work effectively with them and put your energy into the success of the team.


Know that being best friends with your staff could come back and bite you in the butt. 

Contrary to my previous point, there will be staff that you get along really well with.  That’s great, to have staff that you also really like.  However, adding them to facebook, giving them full blown access to your personal life or sharing your feelings about issues at work could come back and bite you.  As their leader, to do your job, you have to ensure that they do their job.  I am not saying that you can’t have a friendship with people who work for you, or people you work for.  I am saying that you need to ensure that the friendship is strong enough to cope with negative feedback, manage sensitive information and deal with the fact that you have different levels of roles.  Different levels of role come with different access to information, different pay grades and expectations. If you are in doubt, I would suggest not going there.  Don’t compromise your ability to do your job as a new leader with workplace friendships.


Admit your mistakes.

One of the great things about being new to leadership is that you will be afforded a bit of latitude.  That means that you can get things wrong without the sky falling in.  It’s OK to learn as you go (within limits of course).  You will make mistakes.  The crucial thing is, that when you do, own them.  People will respect you for it and as a side benefit, you will appear more relatable.  Don’t get me wrong, those folks who belong in point three may not change their tune, but remember, they already didn’t like you.  I talked about owning your mistakes here, and it can be a game changer when it comes to trust between you and your team.


Enjoy what you are learning in your new leadership role.  Enjoy the contribution that you can now make to getting change accomplished.

A new to leadership job can be tough.  Even tougher when you are learning a new role level.  The complexities that come with staff leadership are many, so it is easy to forget to enjoy yourself.  When you move into a leadership role you get a seat at a new table.  This can afford you insights that you previously didn’t have.  Likewise, it can give you influence that you haven’t had before.  You are now in the driver’s seat to make things better for your team.  Go ahead, take it out for a spin, see what you can achieve and enjoy it.


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