How to step into a new leadership role

Last modified 29 November 2022
Career & Development
How to step into a new leadership role

Stepping into a new leadership role, whether for the very first time or for a different company, is always a major milestone in your career. You’re now in a position where you lead the work rather than doing it. It’s a sudden transition that can make you feel all kinds of emotions – excited, nervous, grateful or even insecure.

Learning how to step into a new leadership role starts the moment your position is announced. Read on to discover how you can seamlessly transition into your new role and become the best leader you can be.

Management VS leadership: What is the difference?

Many people in leadership roles are already aware of what makes them great managers. Project management, staff development, reaching targets and reporting are all skills that a manager requires to successfully supervise a department. However, these attributes won’t necessarily inspire your staff to perform as well as you know they could.

A strong leader makes their team excited about their work and encourages them to achieve their full potential. They take the time to learn their employee’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what drives them to succeed in their role. A good leader also identifies any challenges their team may be facing and creates plans to overcome them together.

Most importantly, the best leaders are excellent communicators who regularly share the company’s success stories so that their team can be enthused about their roles within the business.

Being an effective leader not only ensures that your staff will feel valued but also builds trust and increases productivity, engagement and staff retention.

Read ‘The Transition from Manager to Leader’.

Our top three strategies for stepping into a new leadership role

Practice empathy

You may be stepping into a new leadership role where your once peers are now your subordinates. Or perhaps other colleagues applied for the same position and were turned away. Whatever the reason, you may find yourself with a team of disgruntled workers before you’ve even started.

Be open and empathic to your staff, and show them that you understand their situation. Let them know, whether through a group meeting or one-on-one, that you’re humbled that you got the position and that you’re going to do the best job you can for your team. Your candour and honesty will be appreciated, giving you the opportunity to be a strong leader.

Start listening

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of your new leadership role. But before implementing your own changes and strategies, take time to listen to what others say. They may have been in the department longer than you or never had a chance to voice their opinions before.

Pay close attention to the needs of your new team. Can they tell you what their goals and priorities are? What is holding them back from excelling in their roles? Not only will this create a solid relationship with each of your staff members, but you can determine how you can help while maintaining their accountability.

Determine your leadership style

According to Very Well Mind, the three main types of leadership styles are:

  • Authoritarian leadership – this is strongly focused on the command of the leader and the control of the followers, with little or no input from other team members.
  • Participative leadership – these leaders participate in the group and encourage feedback from their team but ultimately have the final say in the decision-making process.
  • Delegative leadership – best reserved for teams of highly qualified experts, delegative leaders provide little guidance and give most of the responsibility to their team.

    Just because you may lend yourself to one particular style of leadership doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment as the situation sees fit. Test these different techniques and change them accordingly in different scenarios. After all, what works well for one group of people may not for another.

    What to expect after stepping into a new leadership role

    Your working day structure will be different

    As a team member, tasks, problems and short-term objectives were set out for you. But as a leader, you’re expected to undertake your own objectives as well as your staff. This will dramatically change the structure of your working days.

    You’ll also be analysing the bigger picture – such as why sales are down and how to rectify it, tackling low team morale or promoting personnel development.

    Your team dynamics will change

    As Forbes once said, “You now have a team of people who work for you. And guess what? When one of them makes a mistake, your boss will look to you for the blame.” 

    As a successful leader, you now represent your department – meaning that any achievements or mistakes are seen as solely yours. Be sure to take corrective action as quickly as possible when any mishaps occur and work closely with the individual responsible so they can develop and learn. Don’t forget to let team members know when they’ve succeeded and acknowledge (or even celebrate!) their achievements.

    You can still ask for help

    Stepping into a new leadership role often makes people believe that they need to be perfect or have all the answers. But being human is a strong attribute for great leaders – in fact, admitting to your team that you need more information or time to make a decision can create an atmosphere of honesty and strengthen your connection.

    So ask your superiors for help when you need it. And don’t be afraid to ask for more clarity or the advice of your subordinates.

    Delivered online with continual updates, innovations and new releases, the Fast-Track MBA offers genuine flexibility, industry insights, practical skills and the support you need to achieve your goals in our fast-changing world. Demonstrate advanced understanding of leadership theories in our Leadership subject, or create a leadership model for your own development. Learn more about our MBA program.

    *The Australian Institute of Business (AIB) is Australia’s largest provider of MBAs. Source Ready, B. (2023) Domestic Enrolments Surged During COVID After International Students Locked Out, MBA News. Available at: MBA News.

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