Becoming a successful leader

Q:  I’ve recently been promoted into a management role of a large team. I’ve previously supported this team in a temporary capacity but that experience did not allow me much time to lead the team effectively. I’d like to develop my skills in effective management and leadership – what should I consider and read to get me started?

A: You are already one step ahead in that you have an idea of who is in your team and the possible dynamics of the team. In the first two or three months, an effective leader will take the time to gain an understanding of the team, the individual members, the operations of the team, and not make too many drastic changes, unless absolutely necessary.

Not all managers are natural-born leaders. There is a difference between the two. Managers are often good at running the daily operations of a team, maintaining the status quo, they may be systems and process oriented, they manage risks as they arise and work to set goals. However, leaders take a bigger picture approach and some of the qualities of effective leaders include:

  • Leaders don’t just work to set goals; they create vision and articulate that vision to their teams so everyone is aware of why they come to work.
  • Leaders inspire and motivate their team to do their best through coaching rather than managing. They communicate often and well.
  • Leaders take the time to build effective working relationships with individual team members. They don’t necessarily know personal details about each team member’s life, but they seek to understand each individual’s work, their strengths and their weaknesses so that they can bring the best out in their people.
  • Leaders believe in their own continual self-development, professionally and personally, and will take responsibility and accountability for their actions and decisions. They do not take credit for others’ work and give credit and praise where it is due.
  • In supporting individuals to be the best they can be in the workplace, leaders will identify and support future leaders in their team, and nurture and support them for potential succession planning. Even if the leader has no plans of leaving, they recognise the value of growing talent up within the organisation and creating opportunities for growth within their team members.
  • Leaders will challenge the status quo when necessary and have courage to take risks and make difficult decisions. They do not avoid the difficult conversations but the way strong leaders approach these difficult situations will continue to earn the respect of their team.
  • Leaders continue to work on their emotional intelligence: they have strong self-awareness, they are aware of others and their emotions, they are able to manage their own emotions and choose to respond in a thoughtful way to others; hence building effective working relationships.

It takes time to find your feet as a new manager and leader but the good news is that becoming an effective leader is a skill set that can be learned. There are so many great leadership resources – I encourage you to also listen to TED talks on this topic. A particularly interesting speaker and author is Simon Sinek – consider reading his book (he has a few) titled Start With Why. Once you start looking around, you will also find great websites where you can subscribe to leadership based e-newsletters which are often full of helpful tips. Good luck.

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Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Assistant Director and a registered psychologist.

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