“... Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.”
This classic piece of wisdom by William Shakespeare, if applied to leadership, cleverly categorises leaders into three distinct categories, but might trick us into believing that the level of success progressively decreases with each category. One might argue that people, who rise to leadership opportunities not by choice but, due to lack of one, are more likely to fail, but they forget to factor in one important aspect of any successful leader – the team that supports him or her.
Any leader, who is just beginning to understand the nuances of leadership and management, is likely to succeed significantly, if his or her transition into the leadership role is supported adequately by his seniors, and juniors. While some might assume that their eligibility to become a leader is directly proportional to the number of years they have worked, the truth could be entirely different. First-time leaders are pushed in the shoes of a leader owing to change in roles or organisational structures, or the external environment of the company, or probably because of a void of leadership at the top; owing to somebody’s abrupt departure, or demotion. If the new leader has been hired specially for that role, as opposed to someone from the team being promoted to the position, the new leader not only has to adapt the role, but also adjust to new culture and transition personally. Regardless, a new leader, a face known or unknown, who is taking on the role for the first time, brings with themself a new and fresh approach, different ideas, and their own unique experience and perspective. Your role, as top management, or as a part of their team, is critical in establishing how successful they will be. Here’s what you can do ease new Front-Line managers into their roles:
The early days are insured
The new leader must be encouraged to take on challenges with a new approach, and must be told by his seniors and co-workers that during the initial few months, setbacks will not be held against them. It would be unfair to expect immediate results, and this should be consciously communicated to new leaders – telling them that taking risks, and experimenting is encouraged. They must be insured from the fear of failure, and be given some time to actually put their ideas to practice.
Get them acquainted
A new leader must be guided, and adequately informed about things critical to their job. Psychologically, asking a questions or clarifying trivial information doesn’t come naturally to humans; for it seen as a sign of weakness, hence seniors and colleagues must pro-actively tell them things that they need to know, but might be hesitant in asking or might not know how to ask. These include both official processes and procedures, and also unofficial secrets and tricks to help them in the role. New leaders must be thoroughly briefed on prevailing conditions, pre-existing challenges and conflicts going on in the team, and should be helped in prioritising these challenges.
Understand their working style
You can only help them optimally if you know their fundamental working style and nature, and how they operate. These range from preferred forms of communication to the way they address conflict. It is important to understand how a new leader views issues and challenges, and how they plan to fix it. Seniors can actually help new leaders identify and foster this style, if needed.
Create an effective communication channel
Based on your understanding above, plan, ideate, give updates, and provide feedback regularly to the new leader using a communication channel that is most effectively used. Do not let obstacles in communication blindside a new leader about important developments or problems, for the same will throw the new leader off-course into chaos, and you will be held responsible for it.
Express your confidence explicitly in them
Remember they are new to the job as well, and giving them a vote of confidence, once in a while, will mean more to them than you can imagine. Appreciation coming in from both seniors and colleagues will give them a position of influence, which will encourage them and tell they are on the right path. Hence, if you like some changes they have brought to the way things work, be sure to convey it to them.
Be flexible to new ideas
Do not reinforce what the previous leader said or how they used to operate. Be flexible in adopting the new vision, and extending your support to it. In fact, you should prepare them for likely obstacles, and readily help solve them. Constantly questioning the feasibility of what a new leader brings to the table is likely to dampen their spirits. Given a chance, a new leader may actually be able to refocus the team and help shift to an effective culture.
Feedback is important
As always, giving them timely feedback, and discussing what went right and how, and how it could have gone better – by holding them accountable for the successes and failures is an important step to close the loop. Not only will this tell them that they have your support and approval as a leader, it will give them a chance identify and replicate their successes, and mitigate their failures. Be sure to offer them solutions to existing and potential challenges, instead of only listing out areas where they can do well.
The bottom-line is, it takes conscious effort, time and resources to help a new leader get used to their roles and responsibilities. During the first few months of a new leader, the chances of failure to fit into a team, or execute plans or tackle challenges are higher, as the transition is undoubtedly tough and vulnerable. Hence, organisations must have dedicated programmes and policies to usher new leaders into their roles, and must make it a priority, by clearly communicating to them their job, the expectations and granting them sufficient resources to operate. After the initial euphoria and elation, it is natural for a new leader to have their confidence and support shaken in the face of challenges. The concept of being accountable for someone else and their work is challenging in itself, and this challenge can be further deepened if the person at the helm of affairs doesn’t get appropriate support from his seniors, co-workers and juniors. Taking on the role of a leader, especially for the first time, is a stressful job. It can get overwhelming amid all the new roles and responsibilities, and hence the need for a formal transition process is indispensable, which maximises the support of seniors and teammates.
A leader is as good as his team, so, if you are working under them, the best way you can help them is by doing your job well, doing it on time, and ensuring that quality is upheld, for they are responsible for you and your work.