In most organisations, the natural progression for the star in the team is the promotion to team lead or manager. And while that might be a step up, most individuals feel ill prepared for the new responsibility of leading. Old school management styles are no longer relevant in modern places of business – managing a team is not the same as leading it. For this reason, a decade or more experience as a technical expert will not have taught you to ask questions instead of giving the answers; or to identify other individuals’ strengths or how to structure a development plan for another person’s weaknesses – to mention just a few of the key responsibilities that come with your new role.
While there is much value is understanding the mechanics of the work your team performs, that alone won’t help them succeed in meeting performance targets, or nurture a collaborative environment of sharing ideas and working together.
Your job as a leader requires a different mindset in order to elevate your team’s performance. Your new degree of expertise in a leadership role should include the ability to:
- realise a new vision
- set the course of direction, keeping others motivated and inspired
- align and move people in new directions
- produce change and movement
- allow your team to fail
- be more proactive than reactive
- provide critical and curious feedback
- become an expert at asking questions, not giving answers
- be open to change
- express deeply seated feelings and basic human values
Often executive-level individuals struggle to let go of their old identity as “expert” and accept their new one as “leader”. When this happens you’ll find the leader of a team feeling constantly embattled instead of leading. The consequences are damaging to the individual and the team, not to mention the ripple effect it will have throughout the company.
The dangers are:
- Burnout: The leader feels that he or she has to do everything all the time and have all the answers.
- Conflict with team members: The leader always give his or her expertise, hardly ever listening to the input from the rest.
Taking the first steps to shift from expert to leader
Become self- aware
This will be the most fundamental switch in mindset you’ll have to make in order to be the type of leader who inspires others to dig deep and deliver their best.
Work on your EI (Emotional Intelligence)
This goes hand in hand with becoming more self -aware. Your ability to recognise and regulate emotive responses in yourself will go a long way to being more relationally aware of team dynamics. Read more about Emotional Intelligence here.
Develop leader technique strategies
Strategies for building a successful leader mindset include:
- training with a coach to understand how to effectively support and develop your team
- recognising that it’s okay for your team to fail in certain instances, then exploring what they’ve learned during your debrief of the “failure”
- developing a list of go-to questions to keep yourself in a curious place and to gain a better understanding of your team’s point of view. For example: “Can you walk me through your thinking?” “How did you come to this decision?” “What led you to choose X over Y?”
If you are the person who suddenly finds himself in a leadership position and feels like you are letting your team down by not being the type of leader that inspires, then know that leaders are not born, they are developed. And that being promoted as a leader really means a whole new career change.
Did you know that 25-40% of Fortune 500 company leaders, who are already at the top their game, engage a leadership development coach?