Leaders emerge at every level in an organisation. For some people, leadership comes naturally. But for most, the first time in a leadership position is uncomfortable and comes with a steep learning curve. You might have lots of expectations for yourself and what it means to to be in a leadership position. Being a leader also means you are a representative for the culture and values of the organisation. But the most important thing for new leaders is to do is give themselves space to learn and make mistakes.
Here are three things to keep in mind whether you’re a first-time project lead or stepping into your first formal role managing a team.
1. Commit to learning by listening and asking questions
Leadership does not have to be by consensus, nor does it have to mean dictating, talking over others and ignoring ideas from your team. When taking on new leadership position, listening to what the rest of the team has to offer is an important part of effective collaboration. Managing a new team also requires listening to understand. As the leader you need to know what motivates and inspires the people on your team. And don’t think you have to have all the answers. In fact, asking questions can help you discover what your employees are passionate about, and to explore what is or isn’t working in a Socratic way.
2. Lead with integrity and authenticity
In the beginning, being a new leader will probably be uncomfortable. Let go of the expectation that you can live up to your idea of what a leader is, and just be yourself. Every leader has their own style, but the key is to know yourself and your strengths, and allow your team to be play to their own strengths as well. Be authentic and transparent to earn the trust of your team. You also have to be honest and self-aware enough to accept feedback and make changes you believe will make you a better leader.
3. Prioritise, delegate and empower others
The best leaders know that they are only as good as the people they lead. As a team member your job was to execute your piece of a project; as the leader, your job is to guide the execution of the entire project. You may be tempted to try to do everything, but delegating and empowering the people around you to accomplish your vision is evidence of true leadership. While you want to everyone to share ideas and collaborate, it’s equally important that you identify and prioritise the best ideas to accomplish the current goals.
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