I was promoted to a leadership position and I was wondering – why are you promoting me to a leadership position? I don’t know anything about leading people… And they said don’t worry, you’ll be fine. And I wasn’t fine.
(from episode 45 of the “What the HR” podcast interviewing Matt Schlegel)
I heard that on a podcast episode recently.
And I’ve heard variations on the theme from – let me think to make sure I’m not overstating this – yes, from everyone I’ve ever asked about that moment of stepping from individual team member into a leadership role.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the skills required to excel at individual contribution are not the skills required to even be fairly decent at leadership. Or, as the saying goes, what got you here won’t get you there.
So what can you do if you’ve just been promoted, and you don’t feel “fine” about your preparedness?
Figure out what “help” looks like
There are many, many options for leadership skills development. From books to coaching to mentorship to all types of education, it spans a tremendous range.
What do you need? What fits your personality and style? Do you need a group setting, do you prefer to read and absorb, do you need personal input from someone?
Maybe the answer is “all of the above” – and that’s quite possible; we all learn in multiple ways.
Don’t look for a silver bullet. There’s no one-size-fits-all in this (or in anything else). Maybe you want to start with a book, or some videos. Or maybe you want to jump right in to a training program.
You decide what first step feels right for you.
Ask for what you need
Isn’t that the hardest thing for most of us? And asking for what we need as a fledgling leader – whoa and yikes. What will “they” (the people who just promoted you) think? Will they change their minds? Will they think they made a mistake? Nope, nope, can’t ask, better just stay quiet and muddle my way through.
So yes, I get it: asking for leadership training can be challenging. And in some cases – depending on the culture of the organization for which you work, and / or the temperament of your boss – it might not be the best choice.
But think about it. Hard. Make sure you’re holding back for real reasons, and not out of your own reluctance.
Go get it on your own
Something I often jump up and down about is this: your career belongs to you. You own it. You’re responsible for it. It’s up to you where it goes.
That said, I get that you may not have the funds to purchase a training program or to hire a coach. And your company may not be as supportive as they could or should be.
But you do have the opportunity to research, to borrow books from the library or from colleagues, to look online for videos, blogs, and other leadership resources. They’re out there.
Be selective. Choose what feels right to you, but also ask for advice from people you trust who have more experience. (Experience matters because without the relevant experience, they can – with all the best of intentions – lead you in the wrong direction.)
Whatever route you take …
Make sure you do something to gain the skills you need.
And make sure that what you learn, and how you learn, aligns with your values, your personality, and your style.
Because in the end, leadership is individual. Yes, there are skills – just like there are skills for any endeavor – but how you use those skills is always up to you.
Are you a leader of fledgling leaders?
For the love of all you value – including the success of your teams and your projects – help them out. Give them the training and support they need. Have the conversation with them about what they need. Because they can learn to fly, if you help them.
Resources to get you started – just go here and check ’em all out. I offer – free – everything from a “Leadership A to Z” video series to mini e-books on managing challenging employees. It’s all there for you to get started. Also, there’s a cute cat photo in the page header.