If you know about your industry, perform your job well, and show “potential” there’s a good chance your organization will consider you for a promotion to a management role.
Unfortunately, as a manager, you’ll only use a small percentage of the skills that got you the promotion in the first place and according to the latest statistics, you have a greater chance to fail than being successful. (60% of new managers fail in their role every single year in the United States alone)
Sadly, I am qualified on this topic because soon after I was promoted into a role leading other people, I quickly figured out I had no clue what I was doing. I did everything wrong, and unfortunately, my people bore the brunt of the pain associated with my lack of leadership skills.
At the end of the day, leadership is a journey and not a destination. To improve your odds of success on your leadership journey, there are skills and behaviors you need before and while you lead a team:
I have written about many times, but the best definition of leadership comes from John Quincy Adams: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, become more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”
Leadership is about serving and empowering other people. No longer do you come to work for yourself or for your own self-interest. You now come to work to serve other people and help them become the best version of themselves in order to achieve more as a team. Serving others doesn’t mean being a pushover or not holding others accountable. It’s actually the opposite. In truth, you can’t effectively lead in today’s environment without it.
One of the biggest mistakes I have made in my leadership career was not knowing what I was looking for in people. We now teach something called the Leadership Compound Theory, which shows the 4 characteristics we look for in people and what we expect each team member to bring to work every single day. They are confidence, drive, selflessness, and character. You might be looking for different things based on your role or position, but the important thing is you define them, communicate them, and live them yourself.
Leading a team is hard work. I tell my team all the time, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” Because of its difficulty, having someone in your corner is extremely important. Sir Richard Branson said, “If you ask any successful business person, they always will have had a great mentor at some point along the road.” Same goes for leadership. If you ask any successful leader they always will have had a great mentor at some point along the road to ask questions and learn from.
The best leaders are learners. PJ Fleck, the current head football coach at the University of Minnesota became the youngest head coach in college football in 2012. By that time, he built out a book of lessons he learned the last 7 years as an assistant coach. The lessons were things he did or didn’t do when he became a head coach. That book continues to evolve and grow, 5 years later. The minute you think you have it all figured out or you forget to be curious, is the minute your skills start to diminish.
When I first started leading a team, I thought it was all about strategy and execution. I had no idea how important the culture was to the results of the team. Just this week on the Follow My Lead Podcast, Jason Barger told me, “culture is everything.” Culture is really all about the beliefs and behaviors that produce the results of any team or organization. The word culture actually comes from a Latin word called cultus, which means “to grow.” In today’s modern business environment that really means to “to grow people.” Put an emphasis on and define the culture you want to create for your new team.
Before you accept your first leadership position and the responsibility that comes with managing other people, consider these 5 skills and behaviors. If you are already leading a team, it’s never too late to start.
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.