How to steer new leaders in the right direction
As leaders become more experienced with the ups and downs of managing people, it gets easier to spot those who have the potential to lead their own team – or company – one day. Instead of fearing the next generation that will replace you, do all you can to ensure they are capable of continuing, or improving upon, the legacy you are building today. Because even for those that have the raw talent and skills, being a great leader takes work. I know, I sound like a broken record. But this is a worthwhile fact that cannot be said enough.
Leadership consultant Marlene Chism identified four common problem areas that new leaders often face. Here they are, along with tips to steer your protégés in the right direction:
- Aligning downward. Managing up is a difficult task; many of us fear confronting authority figures. New managers might find it uncomfortable to discuss concerns about a policy or strategy with the executive above them, so they instead commiserate with those below them. Create an environment where open, honest communication is welcomed – and expected – and look to provide mentors for young leaders so they have an outside perspective to help them hash out challenges.
- Avoiding difficult conversations. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news or the bad guy. While it's important for leaders to create a positive culture, which often includes being liked and respected, that doesn't mean turning a blind eye to toxic employees or situations. A clear employee handbook will set expectations for all employees and provide new leaders with the tools they need to address problems.
- Shooting from the hip. Being entrepreneurial and a problem-solver are good traits to have, but in the right context. Some green managers can be overly-ambitious to change processes or culture, causing problems to sprout. Encourage new leaders to bring their fresh perspective to their role, but temper grandiose ideas with checks and balances to keep them on the right track.
- Misplaced identity. Inexperienced leaders may have a difficult time transitioning from lower-level employee to manager. We often overcompensate in our actions when we feel like we're falling short – micromanagement, problems delegating, and feeling threatened by a teammate are some signs Chism says to be aware of. She recommends building a strategy to help with the transition and providing training opportunities before a new leader enters their role.
Today's leaders at one point were new to the manager or executive role. I certainly remember when I was. I encourage you to reflect on your own experiences from when you started down that path, and find ways to connect with those following behind you. All leaders need guidance and mentorship to be the best version of themselves. While it may be a strenuous feat to help others grow, the rewards are endless.
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