Stepping into a leadership role

Stepping into a leadership role

Stepping into a leadership role

How often have you promoted a successful director, talented middle manager, expert technical manager, or a senior project manager into a more responsible leadership position only to find they struggle with the new responsibilities?  Or in what ways have you seen a supremely qualified new hire remain ineffective in his leadership position because he has not gained the trust and support of his prominent colleagues?

Those being promoted into more senior roles get there because they have the reputation of being super motivated, results oriented, willing to go above and beyond to meet a goal, reliable and insatiably curious.  The key is that they’ve always been able to inspire by their example, by their expertise or by their knowledge.  They pride themselves on their knack for understanding how the organization works and how to best leverage the assets of the organization.

In more senior roles, these super stars need to motivate by looking outward, putting ideas together in inventive ways, then, and here’s the most complicated part, by directing the attention of others to get somewhere new.  True leadership is when each member of the team decides to follow you because they believe in the vision of the future you paint.

Two areas of leadership development that will help elevate your employees’ confidence and prominence:

  • Understanding the difference between managing and leading.
  • Understanding different leadership styles and when to use them.

The difference between managing and leading

In his paper, “Leadership, When Management is Not Enough,” Peter Dimov writes about the comparison between leadership and management to differentiate them and demonstrate their dynamic relationship.  Dimov defines management as “the discipline of creating networks of people to produce consistently and predictably goods and services.  The primary function of management is to produce reliable results.  Leadership is about change and is defined as the ability to create a common vision, which the individuals recognize or adopt as their own, and persuade them to realize it.”1 

Both managers and leaders define what needs to be done, but the differences between manager versus leader are described as follows:

  • The manager is focused on planning (mitigating risk) versus the leader who is focused on establishing direction (seeing the big picture and taking calculated risks).
  • The manager is focused on organizing and staffing (skills specialization) versus the leader who is looking to align people (integrating diverse skills).
  • The manager is focused on controlling and problem solving (identifying deviations) while the leader is focused on motivating and inspiring (empowering people).

What’s tough about this transition from manager to leader (or the effective integration of both) is letting go of everything that made your employee “valuable” in the past.  Her organization, problem solving and specialization skills now need to broaden.  Her new value proposition is in creating the willing coalitions to make change.  Her success is in how well she empower others to carry forward the mission.  Effective leaders accept all contributions, listen to what people have to say, thank them, acknowledge effort, and most importantly, seem to really and genuinely express appreciativeness.

Different Leadership Styles and When to Use Them

In her paper “Styles of Leadership” Cindy Margules says “the leadership style we use determines the way people receive us and can either help or hinder their ability to perform ... to be an effective leader you must use a broad repertoire of styles in the right situations.”2

Here is the collection of leadership styles described in the paper:

  • Visionary – able to provide long-term direction.  The objective is to develop and articulate a clear vision by soliciting input to gain buy-in, and to persuade by having a vibrant picture of the “why.”
  • Affiliative – create harmony by connecting people to each other.  The objective is to promote positive interactions and improve morale.  A good tool for resolving conflicts or helping deal with the stress of a situation.
  • Participative – build commitment and generate new ideas.  Values input and gets commitment through participation.
  • Coaching – helps team members identify their strengths and weaknesses and encourages them to establish development goals.  Focus is on professional development of others.
  • Pace setting – accomplish tasks to a high standard of excellence.  Best used for a high-performing team to push members out of complacency by setting up a competitive atmosphere (that they find motivating).
  • Directive – immediate compliance, best used in crisis situations.

Stepping into a more senior role for the first time, or acclimating an external hire, requires a plan to gain the trust and support of those they will be leading. Many times this plan includes training or a mentoring component to help the aspirant practice the skills to lead.

1. “Leadership, When Management is Not Enough,” Peter Dimov, 2004
2. “Styles of Leadership – Avoid Career Ending Mistakes,” Cindy Margules, PMP, 2011

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