“It may feel as if you have landed in the deep end. You need to swim fast and or you will sink!”
Stepping into a new leadership role requires you to think and do things differently.
This adjustment can initially be difficult for you, as well as for those you are leading. This phase can be a time of steep learning. It is frequently filled with excitement at the opportunity, along with plenty of anxiety.
As a coach, there are usually three questions that I am asked by clients when they are about to take on or move into new leadership roles. They have often been promoted because they have successfully demonstrated strong operational and managerial abilities.
The three questions are:
- What is the difference between leading and managing?
- How can I make that step change?
- What does it mean for me in practice – with this group of people right now?
During the early stages, if support is lacking and there is no useful feedback from those that matter, the uncertainty can grow. It can be unsettling and disconcerting. The challenge is that what has worked before the promotion probably won’t be enough going forwards.
If you have just been promoted, you may have a nagging underlying lack of clarity about what leading means in the context you are in now. If in doubt, you know that you will tend to fall back on your tried and tested management skills. Managing the team rather than leading the team will be the mode that you take on. You can have the very best intentions to step up, but at this early stage, the practical ‘know how’ of leading is elusive.
Leadership can seem somewhat mysterious
The sheer quantity of books, articles, videos and models about leadership can also be overwhelming. Within the ever-growing sea of these resources, what might be the most helpful? If you have started a new role you probably don’t have a great deal of spare time to either investigate and study at in-depth.
If you are fortunate, there will be a company emerging leader training and support at this point. Perhaps someone, within the company will mentor you, or some external coaching sessions might be offered.
If not, then I can recommend a brilliant book. It will demystify leadership for you and reassure you that you can do it!
Steve Radcliffe’s book – Leadership Plain and Simple is well worth reading.
The author is very clear about the difference between managing and leading.
He states that there is a real difference between managing and leading others with vision – towards a new future.
The ideas in his book, like all really good ideas, are simple and have a ring of truth about them. The book is both relevant and highly accessible. In fact, I like it so much that I often buy it and give it to my clients. I do this if they are starting a new leadership role or are wanting to improve their leadership capabilities and confidence.
It is a book you can read through in one go and then dip back into whenever you need to. A resource that you can pick up and find a nugget of guidance, just when you most need it.
Leadership explained simply
Steve suggests that leadership is about getting into a leadership mode. It is a choice. We can all do it, and it can be developed.
He defines the key aspects of being in this mode as:
- Leading towards the desired future
- Engaging others in creating that future
- Delivering – making sure that it happens
He suggests that you lead with through being FED savvy (Future – Engage -Deliver).
Knowing how to lead towards the Future – then Engaging others – and Delivering results.
It is about stretching yourself and your team, to go beyond your existing limits.
As Steve says in this book:
“Powerful and effective leaders are guided by the Future they want. And more than this, the leader is strongest when that Future is powerfully connected to what he or she cares about.”
Managing is day to day operationally focused
Managing is about the day to day and making things happen efficiently in any business setting. It is about ensuring the resources, roles and people are in place and working to plan. It is concerned with the detail of doing this well.
As Stephen Covey famously said:
“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall”.
Both are important; there will be times as a leader when you will, of course, need to draw upon your managerial strengths.
Knowing when to intervene in this mode is also part of the wisdom of effective leadership.
Communication is an essential part of any leader’s capabilities.
Steve’s book also outlines how to become a more effective leader (whatever your role) and offers guidelines as to how to hold key conversations around the above FED principles.
It covers how to become more self-aware as a leader, managing your energy, emotions and mood so that you provide the best conditions you can for your team to flourish.
If you are in a new leadership role or want to draw out and strengthen your leadership qualities, following Steve Radcliffe’s approach could be just what you need. It could help you step up and develop your leadership, steady stride.
The transition from being a manager to building your reputation as an effective leader can be a crucial phase in your career. In addition to reading this book, if you are interested in our executive coaching during this time, please contact Jude Elliman.