One of the most critical aspects to being an effective leader is to make the transition away from being an individual contributor to a facilitator and supporter of followers. If leaders do not see themselves in this light, and more importantly, do not act as such, then followers will have a difficult time seeing them as the leader.
I read an advertisement email a couple of years ago for some leadership training and I was struck by the statistics that they reported regarding the “non-transitioned leader." They reported that … “Today, 72.3 percent of new first line leaders are still approaching their work like individual contributors even those they have been promoted to a role where they are responsible for leading others.” Their statistics continued saying, “Every one of your leaders who fail to transition ‘significantly compromises’ the performance of approximately 12 people and, on average, the direct reports of non-transitioned leaders under-perform their peers led by transitioned leaders by 15 percent.”
In my own experience I have found this to be correct, at least in the aspect of why some people in leader positions excel and why others flounder. Here are some considerations to think about regarding this transition process, which spans the end of the preparation phase through the early stages of holding a leadership position.
Leaders must understand that a psychological shift needs to take place in your new leadership position. You need to start thinking, feeling and valuing differently as a leader. What are your leadership values? Have you take time to determine what those are? If you don’t know your own values, essentially your compass points for direction and boundaries in your leadership activities, how will others?
Use the word “we” much more than the word “I”. Remember: it is no longer about you, it is about them. Your followers, your employees, are the people who are working to make your agency successful in accomplishing the mission.
Begin measuring the successes of your followers as the indications of your efforts as their leader. Transitioned leaders know that when the team is succeeding the credit goes to the team but if the team is failing the leader will always receive the scrutiny. Frequently ask yourself this question, “Are your followers succeeding because of you or in spite of you”?
Project comfort and confidence in the role of being a leader. Your attitude about the position and why you’re in it will make all the difference. Assume the job and not just the position. Continue to build and cultivate your integrity and credibility because now is not the time to relax your personal values.
Lastly, avoid regressing to non-leader actions. Participating in office gossip or break room antics or, as my grandmother would say, “tom-foolery," are often mistakes that new leaders make thinking that it will still show your followers that you’re human or “still one of them." They do not see you as one of them anyway so it only reflects on your integrity and damages credibility. Stay above all of that and remind yourself that things are different now; you are the leader.