Business Bites: Becoming a leader

Nick Walsh FBDO
ABDO head of corporate development

What changes should you expect to encounter when you become a leader?

Resetting relationships

Firstly, avoid assuming that because you did a role, you will be able to lead a team doing that role. You need to recognise how your context changes when you become a leader – and this article looks at some key areas to consider how you adapt and shift your mindset and focus.

In the Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, ‘5 things that change when you become a leader’, it is shown that being promoted to lead a team that you were once part of can be challenging in terms of needing to reset certain relationships. Being a leader means treating everyone equally and showing no bias towards friends as this will disenfranchise other team members.

There will be occasions where the interest of the individual does not align with the interest of the business, and you must be in a position to manage this trade-off without compromise. In the article, above article Moore advises that the rule of thumb is to be ‘friendly’, not ‘friends’ with team members.

Looking out for your team

A second key change for you is that you are no longer accountable for only your own behaviour and performance, you are now responsible for those aspects for every one of your team members. This includes a duty of care for their physical and mental wellbeing – as well as guiding their development and performance. Clearly set objectives that have been agreed with the individual, linked to regular reviews of performance against those objectives with feedback will help to manage the business’ priorities and their delivery whilst also working on the individual’s own skills and knowledge.

You may have become part of a larger leadership team in your new role, and as such, there is an expectation that you will contribute to this larger team’s goals. It will, of course, give you an opportunity to establish larger goals for your team aligning with the wider business as well as voicing your opinions and/or concerns. As part of this wider team, you will need to align yourself with senior members’ objectives for the business. You have the opportunity to influence those larger objectives and need to be prepared to support them and execute them.

Managing resources

Last, but no means least, you now have the company’s resources at your disposal, and you are entrusted to manage those resources. This may be people, equipment, property, money, but whatever resource you are utilising you must do your due diligence to ensure that you are optimising those resources and not diminishing them in any way.

Tools and guidance

It is important not to get stuck in a place where you only act through tools purported to aid leadership and team growth. Often overlooked by such tools will be things such as employee morale, team engagement, and the development of individuals within the team. Tools can be useful but are not a replacement for the critical areas covered thus far, which should all help towards a trusting and collaborative work environment.

It may seem a little like a minefield at first but look to resources that can help you such as having a mentor, or learning what can strengthen your knowledge and skills in leadership areas. There is a good offering available that can cover a fully recognised qualification, and even a short course or a workshop. Tap into these and learn from the experts and/or your peers.

Valcour, in her HBR article ‘Anyone can learn to be a better leader’, gives some great examples of behaviours you can look to implement and the more that you do these, the more natural they become for you and your team.

Don’t be a superhero

When your team comes to you with challenges or issues, it can be easy to jump into ‘superhero mode’ and offer the answer or solution. Before doing this, take the opportunity to ask them the right questions to see if they can solve the issue themselves. This will help in terms of them feeling trusted, utilising knowledge and skills, and empowering them to look for solutions.

Always try to put yourself in their shoes though and consider situations from their point of view. Something that may seem simple and straightforward to you can be highly challenging for them. After all, they do not have your experience.

Seeking feedback will offer another fantastic way of showing the team that you trust them and that they can trust you to involve them in decisions and the review of activities after the act. Feedback will give you a chance to see how to do things better next time, but more importantly it gives an opportunity to celebrate successes with the team and individuals.