When you’re faced with your first leadership position it is both an exciting, and nerve wracking experience. The exciting part is that your organization is trusting you with more responsibility, probably higher pay, and more impactful value-projects. The nerve-wracking side of things is that you have more responsibility, and as a leader, when things hit the fan, eyes look at you. However, no leader is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. Especially when they’re just starting out. Keeping that in mind, though, you don’t want to gain the reputation as a poor or clueless leader. Not among those you’re leading, and certainly not with the people who trusted you to lead.
As such, there are a few basic and fundamental lessons that every leader should learn while getting their feet wet with their first real leadership opportunity. Even if you’ve taken on leadership roles in the past, maybe this is your first time taking on a leadership position in a long while and you’re a little rusty, or maybe this is your first leadership opportunity with your new organization. No matter where you are in your leadership journey, it’s always good to get a refresher on these five fundamental lessons that can benefit a new leader, as well as an experienced one.
“Leaders don’t have all the answers, and trying to pretend they do will only inhibit growth. There’s always someone — a professional contact, a vendor, even a junior employee — who will know something you don’t. It’s astonishing what you can learn in a moment of humility, as long as you are open to the possibility.”
– John Hall, Co-founder and President, Calendar –
1. Communication is the Key
It is becoming more and more evident with each and every passing year that communication is one of the most crucial elements there is to success. Communication between employees and managers, peers, teammates, colleagues, clients, and everyone else involved in the workflow has to be clear, and actionable. More than that, though, it also has to be ingrained with empathy, which will be touched on in more depth later.
“Communication is becoming even more important as the remote workforce continues to grow larger and larger. I don’t envision the workforce returning to a complete in-person model any time soon, either. Hiring strong communicators is the best route any organization can take right now.”
– Breanne Millette, CEO, Bisoulovely –
By establishing strong and clear communication channels, organizations are better able to clearly establish expectations, as well as hold individual parties accountable for certain tasks. Yet, the other side of this, is that open and honest communication also facilitates transparency among leadership and the staff, promotes collaboration, and most importantly encourages honesty on the part of employees as well.
At the end of the day, we’re all human beings, and that needs to be recognized by employers. If an employee needs an extension, or had a personal emergency come up for one reason or another; that should be totally acceptable. However, both parties need to treat one another with respect, honesty, and transparency in order for this to be a safe exchange that doesn’t cause an issue, retaliation, or an emotional eruption.
“Alot of leaders are still learning a lesson about the extended value of empathy. We see it all over the market. That said, there are a lot of really upstanding people who are taking more active roles in establishing a more sustainable future of business operations.”
– Ian Heyman, Founder, Male Drip Protection –
2. Leading by Example not Instruction
Leadership can be tricky for some people, especially those who aren’t trained in any type or leadership strategy. However, one of the most common mistakes for new leaders to make is to always attempt to lead by instruction. Words and instructions can sometimes be a lot more complicated and convoluted than a simple demonstration.
Not only is it easy to muddle instructions on a task that should be relatively simple by over-explaining, but leading by demonstration also gives the employee or trainee a chance to ask questions in real-time. This can make the learning experience more engaging and memorable.
“Even in the digital age, there are ways that we can show people how to do things without an over explanation that’s too hard to follow. Video conferencing with someone to go over a few details can be far more efficient than a 2-page email of bulleted instructions.”
– Juan Pablo Cappello, Co-Founder and CEO, Nue Life –
This isn’t the only case in which leading by example is prevalent, either. Many of us have had those horrible managers who live their lives by the motto, ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ This is typically a red-flag for a person in a management position, because it immediately assumes some type of separation between management practices and the expectations of everyone else. If you want your team to truly thrive, you’re going to have to put in just as much work as they are.
“Don’t let managers take a back-seat. If they aren’t in the driver’s seat, then they shouldn’t be in a leadership position. There’s a difference between delegation and passive presence. Companies don’t need passive leaders. They should be working just as hard, if not harder than their teams.”
– Omid Semino, CEO and Founder, Diamond Mansion –
3. The Traps of Micromanagement
This can be a specifically difficult lesson for new leaders to learn, but it is an absolutely crucial one. There is quite literally no value in micromanagement practices.
Micromanagement is a management strategy, if you can call it that, that involves looking over the shoulder of team members as they operate normal daily tasks. Not only does this kill productivity on the employee side of things, it is also a waste of resources from a managerial and leadership perspective.
“Micromanagers aren’t helping anyone. In fact, they’re likely doing more damage to the organization than they are good. If you start hearing reports of micromanagement in your organization, you should consider investing in some leadership training.”
– Drew Sherman, VP of Marketing, Carvaygo –
Micromanagement also ends up demotivating the workforce, and creating a back-log of work because of the redundancy loop created by the micromanager. Besides, as the remote workforce has proven, adults are, on average, much more productive when allowed a certain amount of autonomy in their obligations.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I would be a lot less productive if I had someone staring over my shoulder every moment of my workday. There’s just no way to ignore that type of presence.”
– Susan K. Shaffer, President, Pneuma Nitric Oxide –
4. Empathy and Flexibility
Gaining more and more traction throughout professional communities are the traits of empathy and flexibility. Empathy is an integral aspect of communicating in the modern day and age, especially when so much communication happens over the internet and through a screen. Knowing how to properly phrase your sentences and communications can help you and your team avoid miscommunications that can lead to unpleasant or hostile communications.
“Something that is overlooked by so many leaders and managers looking for the secret to productivity is the presence of empathy, understanding, and human connection. It goes a really long way in creating a culture that the employee wants to contribute to over time.”
– Karim Hachem, VP of eCommerce, La Blanca –
The modern workforce has also clearly made flexibility in scheduling and working a number 1 priority. With so much of the professional world working from home on either a part-time or full-time basis, it’s been much easier for employees to find a healthy work-life balance. This is largely because of the commute being eliminated, but it also makes it easier to get work done when it makes sense for the individual.
“If I give someone a deadline that’s a week away, it doesn’t matter when they work on the project or the delivery. Just as long as it’s finished by the deadline.”
– Jesse DeBear, Fractional CMO, Renew –
5. The Leader’s Burdens
As a leader, there are two ends of the stick. When it comes time for praise, good leaders are expected to pass that on to the people underneath them. When it comes to taking fault, on the other hand, the leaders are expected to step up and shoulder that burden.
“That’s the fun part about being a leader, the praise is never mine, and the blame always is. That’s what you learn to accept when you’re a leader”
– Miles Beckett, CEO and Co-founder, Flossy Dental –
While this may not seem fair, it is sort of the nature of a leadership position. However, that being said, even as you pass praise onto team members, you will certainly gain the respect and recognition of being a good leader, and will put yourself in a position to touch the hearts of all the people you’ll lead now, and in the future.
“It can take some time to settle into the leadership role, but honestly once you’re there, I don’t think anyone regrets it. Not one bit.”
– Cesar Cruz, Co-Founder, Sebastian Cruz Couture –
A few Final Words
There is a lot to learn about leadership, even for the most experienced leaders of all time. Keep the fundamentals above in mind, and you’ll at least set yourself up for a good start in the world of leadership.
“Put simply, 2022 demands a more human approach, and as a result a new leadership strategy. Leaders who can remain optimistic, build agility in times of disruption and deliver business strategies will create workplaces for both people and organizations to flourish and succeed.”
– Angela Kambouris, CEO, Evoluccion Consulting –