If You’re Going to Be a Leader, Know Your Role

More and more government jobs are hiring candidates based on level of education over level of experience. This change in hiring practice sometimes makes it difficult for new managers to understand their roles or to be accepted by their more experienced employees. Inexperience in managing employees or the inability of balancing all responsibilities inherited in a leadership position can negatively curb the team’s performance and productivity. Not knowing how to lead a team can be demoralizing for the employees and result in undesirable outcomes for the organization as a whole.

Knowing your responsibilities as a leader is crucial for the accomplishment of your organization’s mission. Learning each of your employees’ responsibilities is crucial to set milestones and to develop a successful team. Here are five tips for inexperienced leaders to remember when facing seemingly overwhelming expectations:

  1. Competence – Employees learn more from how competent the manager is in the performance of their duties than how well-spoken the manager is. Words without decisive action are empty and affect the morale of the team. In other words, don’t just talk a good game; most of your employees can easily see past insincere words.
  2. Willingness – Be familiar with tasks assigned to your employees. You don’t have to be as fast, proficient, or know everything, but you should be able to share some knowledge of what your expectations are for your employees. Be willing to learn and expect challenging questions from your most experienced employees. Learning grants knowledge and knowing what to do is always better than vaguely explaining to your employees what to do.
  3. Humility – Acknowledge when you make mistakes. The frequency in which you commit errors will largely depend on your ability to learn from them. Failure to recognize mistakes when made can create an atmosphere of mistrust in your employees and sets a negative example for your team.
  4. Honesty – Never lie to your employees. Keeping sensitive information from your team is not the same as lying to your employees. “I am not at liberty to share that information at this time,” is better than, “I don’t know anything about that.” Lying to your employees will brand you as dishonest and alienate members of your team.
  5. Experience – Don’t be afraid to ask your most experienced team members questions about processes that you do not understand. Never pretend to understand in order to avoid being perceived as inexperienced. Feigning understanding will make you seem irresponsible and slothful when your team fails to achieve results. Experience can only be attained by asking, learning, and applying what you learn.

Life is a journey that must be experienced individually. History shows that humanity has the habit of repeating the same mistakes made by others. If you have decided to become a leader, please recognize that to manage people requires a great level of commitment and sacrifice. Know your role as a leader so that you can guide your employees to recognize their respective roles.  As always, treat all of your employees with respect and dignity.

Alberto Principe is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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