I chose the title because I see too many leaders who haven’t been trained for leadership and they’re just about ready to give up. They had visions of leading their companies, departments, schools, or organizations to great heights. Unfortunately, their people didn’t embrace them, get behind them and follow. Consequently nothing was accomplished. One misconception about leadership is that once you’re in charge, people must do what you say. Wake-up call! Unless the company has handed you the power to hire and fire on the spot, that will never happen.
You need a leadership style
People are hard to manage and they will never do a good job for a bully or an authoritarian. You must exhibit leadership by having a goal and focus. You must build consensus and show ability to adapt to your team’s style. All of this takes time and it won’t be commanded. However, there are some things a leader should do right away.
The first thing is establish yourself as the leader. People are waiting to see what you’re going to do. I learned in one leadership class that until you complete a needs assessment and determine what works and what doesn’t, a leader shouldn’t make major policy or structural changes. If you want to assert yourself, paint the walls. That will satisfy your need to make an immediate change and it will show your team that you have power. You can do big changes later.
You are no longer your co-workers friend
Don’t go in laughing, grinning, and hugging. Somebody is waiting to knock you off your square or publicly snub you. The leader can’t make friends. You can be cordial to those you choose, but everyone will not want or deserve your cordiality. Extend courtesy to all. The leader must remain nonbiased, impartial, and lacking favorites.
A leader coming from inside the company is no longer “us”, to your team. You have transitioned to “them”. I’m sorry but lunches, personal phone calls, and travel between you and former colleagues must be handled carefully or stopped. Don’t be surprised if your appearance in the lounge or break room is now unwelcome.
As a member of the establishment, your joking laughter should be limited to small groups or full meetings. An intimate corner meeting where your head is bent together with a team member’s is a thing of the past. The rumor mill is effective. The leader seen clapping anyone on the back or yucking-it-up is misinterpretation waiting to happen.
Look for the power
Once installed, the new leader should look for the power. Someone in the organization wanted your job, was recently removed from your job, or has silent power and wields it without accepting the responsibility that comes with it. All of these power holders can be dangerous.
Until power is determined, don’t let your people see you straddling the fence. If someone is right, agree with that. If you waffle between a very obvious right, versus an obvious wrong, you will lose your people. Most of them understand a power play and they are waiting for you to exert your authority. There can be no tolerance of wrong, no downplaying of bad behavior, and no hesitancy to take charge.
Test the waters by giving an inconsequential directive, then watch who contests it and how the rest of the team responds. The one who holds the power but accepts no responsibility will speak up first. The team already expects him to. He has nothing to lose, and without even offering a Plan B, he will stall operations if he doesn’t agree with you.
Whether he disagrees often or hardly at all, this person is still the silent leader and must be thwarted. Allowing him any of your power means that everything you say or do must carry his stamp of approval.
You may have success with the person who wanted the job and wasn’t selected. He or she may support decisions that are good for the company in spite of being passed over. They may make an excellent ally or second in command for you.
The person who was ousted from the position is in defense mode and should be removed if possible. They will behave as if every new decision, project, improvement is an indictment of their leadership. With that attitude, they will argue every idea and tell you why it won’t work, using a version of it didn’t work in the past. They’re a distraction the team doesn’t need.
Plan your success ahead of time
Reach out to individual members before you bring the team together. Show each member how your idea will lighten their workload, enhance their production, shine a light on their talent, and advance the work as a whole. Then, hold your meeting. Once your power grabbers see the team nodding and buying in, they can either be Resisting Randy or Accepting Addie.
New to leadership? It won’t be a breeze, but don’t give up. Give yourself time, and believe in your purpose. Develop a goal and a vision, and be able to recite it wherever you go. Keep relationships professional. Take control of the power even if you must wrestle it away. Build allies on the team by being fair, consistent, and willing to pitch in.