The process of becoming a leader is a demanding journey of continual learning and self-development.
The trials involved in becoming a first-time manager can have serious consequences. The organisation can suffer human and financial costs when an individual with strong performance and qualifications is promoted but fails to adjust successfully to management responsibilities.
The failures are not surprising, given how difficult it is to transition. Many books describe successful leaders, but few address the challenges of learning to lead.
One of the first things new managers discover is that managing is far more demanding than they'd anticipated.
They're surprised to find that there is a huge gap between the skills and methods needed for success as a person and those required for success as a manager. Success for the individual is mainly dependent on their personal expertise and actions. But as a manager, they are responsible for setting and implementing an agenda for the whole group.
Learning to lead happens by doing. A new manager has to unlearn habits that served him in his early career, which can be stressful.
The transition to manager is often harder than it needs to be because of misconceptions and myths new managers hold about their role.
The incomplete and simplistic views lead new managers to neglect key leadership responsibilities.
New managers typically focus on their rights and privileges. They assume the position will give them more authority, freedom and autonomy to do what they think is best for the organisation.
Instead, new managers find themselves hemmed in by interdependencies. They feel constrained. They are entangled in a web of relationships, from subordinates to bosses, peers, and others inside and outside the organisation, who often place conflicting demands on them. Only when they replace the myth of authority with negotiating interdependencies will they be able to lead effectively.
New managers do wield some power, but they mistakenly believe their power is based on formal authority. This cause many to adopt an autocratic approach they believe to be effective.
New managers soon learn that direct reports don't necessarily respond when they are told to do something. After painful experiences, new managers learn that their authority emerges only as they earn the respect and trust of subordinates, peers, and superiors by demonstrating their character (the intention to do the right thing), competence (knowing how to do it), and their influence (the ability to execute it).
Most new managers desire compliance from their subordinates from the start and often rely too much on their formal authority. But compliance is not the same as commitment. If people aren't committed, they won't take the initiative. And if subordinates aren't taking the initiative, the manager can't delegate effectively.
New managers should exercise influence by creating a culture of inquiry. This will lead people to feel empowered, committed, and accountable.
Managing interdependencies require new managers to build trust, influence and mutual expectations with various people. This is often achieved by establishing personal relationships. However, simply focusing on one-on-one relationships with members of the team can undermine the process.
New managers often attend to individual performance and forgo team culture and performance. However, supervising individuals is not the same as leading the team. Instead, new managers should focus on shaping team culture to harness the collective power of the group.
This managerial myth is partly true yet misleading because it tells only half the story. Ensuring an operation is operating smoothly is a challenging task, and maintaining the status quo can absorb all of a junior manager's time and energy.
But new managers also need to realise they are responsible for recommending and initiating change. This means challenging existing processes or structures beyond their area of formal authority. New managers need to see themselves as change agents within and outside the areas of responsibility in which their teams operate.
New managers will make mistakes and feel pain as their professional identities are stretched and changed. In the struggle to learn a new role, they will often feel isolated.
Few managers ask for help, believing that they are supposed to have all the answers. But seasoned managers know that no one has all the answers.
New managers should be creative in finding support, such as seeking out peers outside their region or function or in another organisation. However, they may find their own superiors more tolerant of their questions and mistakes than they had expected.
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