10 tips for surviving your new leadership role

You've worked hard to ascend the career ladder so you could reach a leadership position. Congratulations! You made it. Now what?

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Being dropped into a role of leadership is both a compliment and burden. And it can be a bit overwhelming, too. With expectations coming at you from the top and bottom, it's difficult to know where to start. Here are 10 tips garnered from colleagues and personal experience, each one vitally important in successfully managing both campaigns and staff. 

1: Understand the difference between being a manager and a leader (with leadership as your goal)

Leadership is an act of inspiration, while management is an act of control. Your new role requires you to be responsible for projects, staff, departmental goals, and more. Each of these is both dependent and independent of one another, so finding the connections between them and working to maintain them becomes your sole responsibility.

Leading in projects means you are always in the front, taking the time to invest everything you have into your task. Leading your staff means taking an active interest in who they are as people, learning their needs, and giving them the required tools to be successful. By leading, you will inspire a sense of trust and confidence by those under you and, in the end, will encourage them to follow.

2: Assess the situation

You were put into the role for a reason, and generally, that reason is to solve a problem. So… get to know the problem. Learn every angle and uncover every bit of information, then construct a portrait of the situation. Include interviews with your staff in your research. This shows that you value their input and experience. It also gives you critical information from those who are on the front lines. Compare this data with the reports you have received and include it in your problem portrait. Above all, see things as they are. Knowing where you are is the first step in knowing where to go.

3: Review objectives

Contrast the newly defined problem (#2) with your stated objectives. These are goals given to you by upper management and information gathered from other sources. A colleague of mine said that this step is almost as important as situation assessment because the objectives represent the map out of the current situation. In addition, this step verifies that the stated objectives are either sufficient or insufficient to solve the current problem. If it's the latter, you have the opportunity to exceed expectations and show those who appointed you that they made the right decision.

4: Seek a mentor

Should this be higher on the list? Probably. But given your new situation, practical tips take priority. Find someone in a higher role who has more knowledge more than you, has the experience to prove it, and is willing to impart both. Invest the time needed to build a relationship and bring this person questions you can't answer yourself. Above all, learn from your mentor's mistakes. Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it — so learn about this person's managerial past and the hard lessons he or she had to learn.

5: Mentor others

Act as a mentor for your direct reports and other members of your professional community. Record your successes and failures, using them as lessons to impart to others. This gets you into a service mindset while requiring you to keep track of what works and what doesn't. Invest time in others and you will be helping them and benefiting yourself as well.

6: Hone your time management skills

As a leader, your time management skills must be superb. Everything depends on your ability to balance the daily tasks appointed to you, with both project management and other duties. Here's one piece of advice that has trickled down and been put to good use: "Feed the eagles, not the turkeys." It's easy to get bogged down in things that don't matter and forget to focus on those tasks that can make you and your team soar.

7: Improve communication

Communication is one of the pillars of successful business and the cornerstone of successful leadership. Be clear about status updates and expectations for projects. Be intentional with your staff and take a genuine interest in what they have to say and what their experience has been. The book Crucial Conversations says that the conflict from poor communication is easily the most destructive element in any relationship. But this destructive force is easily remedied if the intention to communicate is there.

8: Understand it's not about you

True leaders understand that their success is dependent on those they serve. For your staff, it's imperative that you invest the time to get to know them, and by doing so, learn what they need from you to succeed. For your projects, it's important to invest the needed time in each task both with delegation and personal involvement, ensuring that the goals are achieved. With your customers, it's about exceeding their expectations by making what you do an act of service. It's not about your success — it's about everyone and everything you serve.

9: Do a team outing

Want to bond with your team? Hang out with them outside work. While the personal barriers in the modern workplace aren't what they used to be, there still exists a natural apprehension with being "who you are" while on the job. Outside work, people can be themselves. Be sure in these hangouts that you don't put yourself in any compromising situations. Remember, you are a leader 100% of the time and the example you set, whether in the workplace or not, is always monitored.

10: Trust your team's abilities

Micromanagement is not management. It is an active compensation for a lack of genuine trust. Once you have assessed your staff and equipped them to be successful, take a step back and show them that you trust them. Let them soar with their newfound confidence and give them the chance to shine. In doing this, you will be able to better assess who works on your team and who does not. Serving your staff means being honest with them. And sometimes, when it's not a good fit, serving them means letting them go. Again, remember that it is not about you, it is about them. Trust them to accomplish their objectives.

Promoting success

Congratulations on your new role and good luck. This is your opportunity to take the next big step in your career. In everything you do, be intentional and genuine. By ensuring that those around you are successful, you will be successful.