This post is inspired by some of my clients, that have been recently promoted into a leadership position and it also reflects my own journey. We all realized the need to learn how to lead and that leadership is something you can work at and develop over time.
So, if you are currently wondering, whether or not you have the ability to develop leadership skills, let me assure you; you do! Even the best leaders didn’t have the skills needed from day one. They needed to practice. They needed to fail and then fail some more.
Back in my day, I was a Customer Support Agent. I got training on how to answer customer inquiries, how to communicate effectively, how to use the tools and what processes to follow. At the beginning, someone was always available to answer my questions, to support me and to ensure that I deliver quality work. And that was great as I got up to speed very quickly and became one of the top performers in the team.
In many organizations people with technical or subject matter expertise are often promoted because of their knowledge and skills in their field. And that is exactly what got me noticed.
I was promoted to Supervisor and suddenly, I was responsible not only for my own performance, but also for the performance of others. I was responsible not only for my own motivation and job satisfaction, but for the motivation and satisfaction of an entire team.
And to be honest, I struggled and made many mistakes. There were so many moments when I thought to myself that being a Supervisor, and leading a team, wasn’t for me.
I looked at great leaders I had the chance to meet and work with and I believed that I was nothing like them. I questioned if I was cut out to be a leader.
Another challenge for me was that my professional identity changed. In my previous role I was the expert and high performer, but as a newly appointed Supervisor I was starting at the beginning again. I put myself under a lot pressure, I doubted myself as I didn’t know much about people management and leadership. I felt overwhelmed and not at all confident in my new role.
Just because I was promoted into a leadership position, that didn’t make me automatically a great leader or even a good leader.
And here is exactly where leadership development, training and coaching played an important role. Just like any other skill or quality, even leadership has to be cultivated and nurtured.
10 strategies to help you transition into a leadership role
I started working with a leadership coach, who helped me see this transition and promotion as an opportunity for growth. Here are some of the strategies we followed, that may help you in case you are having doubts about your leadership abilities.
Identify your core values – my core values are my guiding principles. They guide my behavior, decisions and actions. They help me determine what is important.
Focus on strengths – skills, experiences, personal attributes, accomplishments that got me to this point.
Identify areas of growth – skills that were essential to be a great manager a leader that I needed to improve on.
Create development plan – a plan to develop those essential skills. We identified trainings required and opportunities to practice those skills.
Grow your leadership ‘muscles’ – I practiced, learned through experience, from observing others, from my own mistakes and reflection. Don’t follow blindly what you learned, test it out and see if the theory or concept is working for you, question it and make it your own.
Develop emotional intelligence – critical part of a being a leader is gaining self-awareness, understanding others, better decision making, building meaningful and deeper connections, developing the ability to perceive how words and actions affect others and how to adjust them accordingly. I took an Emotional Intelligence Assessment to understand my opportunities for growth and we incorporated them into my development plan.
Find a mentor – I approached someone who made a transition similar to mine. My mentor guided me on this journey and helped me avoid the mistakes that they made and helped me build an internal support system.
Find a coach – I decided to continue to be coached. My coach worked with me towards my goals, supported me, encouraged me, championed me, but most importantly challenged. She helped me develop deeper self-awareness and move from being an expert to being a leader who empowers others.
Believe in yourself - yes, making a transition into a leadership role can be nerve-wracking. I felt insecure and not very confident in my ability to lead. So I kept reminding myself that I was chosen for this role for a reason and that it is going to take work, but I do have what it takes to be a good leader. And if that doesn't help, ask yourself this question: "If you don't believe in your abilities to do a good job, why should your team believe in you?"
Enjoy it and have fun – while making a transition from expert to leader can be challenging and overwhelming, it can be also fun and very enjoyable. I celebrated progress, “Aha!” moments I had, and others had as a result of the conversations with me. I got to know new and interesting people, and I truly started enjoying the role of a leader.
We often talk about leadership and success, as if the leadership qualities are something that we should already have and we believe that being a leader is something that we have to be now. But I believe that everyone has leadership qualities in them and they just need to be nurtured and refined.
I realized that I am actually good at leadership. I enjoy developing and empowering people, I see every interaction, every relationship as an opportunity to learn and I get a real satisfaction from helping others succeed and realize their full potential.
While many aspects of great leadership can be learned, what cannot be taught is the willingness to grow and adapt, the appetite to be a leader and the courage to commit to be a leader.
What got you here, won’t get you there. Move outside of your comfort zone. That’s where the magic happens and where you can grow.
Thank you for reading and I wish you every success on your leadership development journey! And remember....you can do this!