5 Leadership Principles for Leaders in New Roles
Article by Guest Contributor Mathew Lee Olmstead.
Often when I speak about leadership to a group of individuals, my direct reports and others within the organisation, as a new manager to that organisation, I often get glassed over looks that convey that I must be speaking a foreign language. When going into an organisation as a leader, one cannot assume that employees have been lead or managed in a productive way. Leaders and managers should consider the following principles when taking a new leadership role within an organisation:
1) Don’t assume your staff know how to follow – I’ve often been in interviews where the prevailing question was how well could I deal with staff or personnel who are un-willing to change and/or follow direction. One should answer this question carefully as you don’t want to come across as passive, but at the same time, one shouldn’t assume that he or she will be walking into an office full of zombies who cannot follow direction. If leadership is about influence, then influence is about connection. Connection with those employees who may have never connected with a supervisor before. In order to have a good follower, there must be a presence of a good leader. And, as leaders, we must realize that as we compare this scenario with the chicken and egg theory, leadership must come first. We can’t expect to come in on day one and demand authoritatively to a group of followers who will go down with us in a burning building. Part of leadership is coaching and teaching. We must be able to coach those employees who have never been lead. We must coach those employees that have never had an opportunity to truly follow because they genuinely wanted to. Many people follow, because they have to. It’s what gets them paid. The challenge is to be able to get people to follow you because they want to.
2) Leaders must be aware of culture shock – I compare this principle to buying a new pet fish at the store. Before a fish is introduced to its new aquarium home, there are several steps the new owner must do to help prevent the fish from getting too stressed out and acclimating it to its new environment. This includes slowly transferring the fish into the aquarium and ensuring as little water as possible from the bag gets mixed into the aquarium to help prevent the transfer of diseases. Likewise, as leaders, we need to let employees get acclimatised to us as new leaders. This is why an observation period to observe why and how things have been down a certain way is important. Employees need to be able to adapt to the new style of management and leadership and most of all, without their adaptation, the new culture we are trying to create or maintained will not be workable. We need to ensure that as leaders we allow employees time to adapt to the new style we bring to the organisation. We can’t assume that because we know how to quickly adapt, they will be able to as well.
3) Communicate the vision – If there is one constant about the transferring of leadership in the organization it is that current employees expect that person to have a vision. Typically, from and existing employee’s perspective, they are curious to know if that vision includes them in the formula moving forward. It is crucial that early on in the new leader’s employment period he or she is able to clearly describe and define his or her vision for the organization. Leaders cannot be shy in this area. Leaders are chosen for a reason and an important part of that reason is to bring direction and guidance to an organization. The organization already knows where it has been. It wants to know where it is going. It also wants to know where you are going to help take it. Be clear and concise, and most of all, let everyone know where they fit into the vision. Use this as an opportunity to create rapport with key stakeholders and to let employees at all different levels of authority know how they fit into the vision. The more employees involved in that process, the more connected they will be to the vision.
4) Compile a Mental Strength Database – When a leader steps into the organisation, he or she should not assume everyone is strategically placed exactly where they need to be. An organisation with excellent employees will only be at its peak performance when every employee is where he or she needs to be. Having someone out of place or in a position where his or her strengths are not being utilised can be dangerous to an organisation’s forward movement. Also, leaders should mentally evaluate those individuals who have been “free riding” the organisation. These are individuals who may not be actively disengaged, but these may be individuals who are making no effort to move the organisation forward. It’s important to mentally make note of these employees are so they can be coached and trained and given an opportunity to become actively engaged and involved.
5) Understand you were chosen for a reason– No matter what situation you are walking into as a new leader, it is important not to forget one very important fact. You are the leader! You were chosen for the job because the organisation felt you were the one that would be able to move it forward. Don’t lose sight of this. You may be coming into a situation that may called for immediate decision making that can affect the current and future culture. Have confidence in your ability to lead, but also don’t forget that without those around you, you are not a leader….or else, you may create culture shock.
–Matthew Lee Olmstead is a Business Administrator in the Higher Education Field. He also has background and Organisational Management and Leadership Development and works with various small group organisations in adapting to organisational change. He currently works as Director of Budget and Administration for the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University.
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