The progression from student to first job, applying experience to problem solving, followed by increased responsibility, then being somewhat relied upon in your department and the next thing. You’re a junior manager – welcome to the early stages of leadership!

The transition where you go from reporting to everyone and then having someone report to you is a massive change.

We all have our struggles, yet solving and overcoming those struggles adds to our experience and allows us to grow and take on greater challenges with more responsibility.

Set the Example

What I’ve experienced in my career is the internal mental and emotional growth. In the beginning I wasn’t quite mentally there! I was not cracking under pressure or going crazy. But I was doing the same as I was before. I was turning up, working hard, and taking few breaks.

Is that what a leader does?

No. Leaders set an example, leaders manage time, leaders are looked up to. Leaders delegate. I was still doing everything myself. Isn’t that why I did all that ‘junior’ work in the first place? I was good at it and my manager wasn’t.

The answer is that I was simply ‘lead’ by a leader in the best way to achieve the results that had been set for them. It’s not an easy style to replicate, but attempting to ‘lead with love’ will have better results than the ‘iron fist’ approach!

Driven by Experience

We humans feed off each other in the sense that colleagues who see us get promoted will adopt different expectations of us. If those expectations aren’t met, it can give rise to conflict. Then we soon need to learn conflict management. This is all part of the early leadership skills growth cycle, driven by experience.

While you grapple with delegation, one does realize that they need to lead the team (even if that is only one person) and recognize that your leadership skills have to evolve.

Familiarize yourself with the new tasks that your leadership role has bestowed upon you and seek to train your team to do the tasks that you used to do. Delegating, leading, conforming to expectations, and growing your leadership skill set is part of your new role.

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With that evolution, we face the confusion of getting your head around the change from junior to senior or assistant to manager. It’s harder than you think.

The culture is different. Colleagues that were friends can become distant as your name appears higher on the organization chart (which is probably ‘politically’ structured to keep everyone happy!).

We’re not designed to change overnight. We actually evolve over years. But what we can do is reassess our circumstances and apply ourselves accordingly.

X, Y, and Z

I’ve since discovered an ability to think more strategically. It really isn’t that hard because we do it in a natural sense, i.e. park car in garage, get out of car, lock car. By contrast we don’t (ordinarily) park car in garage, lock car. We just compartmentalize.

For example, an objective is achieved by the sum of certain results – revenue of ‘X’ requires quotes of ‘Y’ and a conversion of ‘Z’.

As a leader we delegate the responsibilities of identifying and achieving X, Y and Z while retaining the overall management, guidance, and results responsibilities.

Of course those dealing with X, Y and Z are your specialists (the only ones that can do the work, such as you lead them). The bottom line is as the new leader it is up to you to set your team up to win. And in doing so you earn your new position.

Are You a New Leader?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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David McCuistion
David is a retired Naval Officer with extensive leadership and management experience including Officer-in-Charge of a major communication facility, in secondary education teaching leadership, and over five years public speaking on Servant Leadership and organizational development topics.