It’s very challenging to be a leader. I don’t think anyone will doubt that. I’ve spoken in the past about what I think it takes to be a good leader (shut up and listen) and a greater boss (talk to your employees once in a while) but something I don’t talk about enough is how to transition into the role of leader. And that can be the harder than actually leading once you get there.
The steps it takes to go from being a “do-er” to a leader can be very difficult. Quite frankly, it scares the crap out of me. It’s hard to go from a straight up execution mode, where you’re used to dealing with the nitty gritty, to then becoming a manager of a team, where you need to learn to delegate and communicate goals. These are two very different things, and they can cause issues if not handled properly.
The biggest issue?
Understanding that when you’re a leader, you have to be the bigger man or woman in any given situation.
You can’t simply impose your will because you’re now the “boss.” Period. You swallow your pride and work to make sure the team is executing as needed. This means you, as the leader, need to empower those around you to do their jobs, but it also means something else: you need to be able to take the hit and eat crap once in a while. Things won’t always be easy, and at the end of the day, you’re the ones leading the charge. It all falls on you. No one likes a boss that passes the buck to an employee in a tough situation. Just take the hit and move forward.
Another big part of the transition to leader? Accessing your empathy and emotion over your practical skills. People don’t talk about this. Finding this part of yourself can be challenging, and even if you’ve always been an empathetic person, being the boss or leader of a project will change how you exercise it. Leaders need to listen and empower their team to become leaders themselves and take ownership of the work they’re given. Leaders need to understand who they are as a person and relay that emotional understanding to those around them. That takes courage.
As I’ve said many times before, it all boils down to self-esteem and self-awareness. If you can understand who you truly are as a person, and as a leader, then you’ll be able to instill the same understanding in the team around you. Do whatever you can to figure out how to know yourself better if you don’t think you do. You owe it to your team as their leader.