Pioneering Productive Leadership: The Crucial First Step for New Managers
The Role of Leaders in Initiating and Cultivating Healthy, Productive Relationships
Transitioning from a team member to a manager is not only a shift in responsibilities but also a seismic emotional transformation. It is commonplace for promotions to managerial positions to be anchored on stellar performance as an individual contributor. Undeniably, one with discipline, skills, and motivation is an ideal candidate. However, this approach overlooks the distinction between the skills required to excel individually and those essential for steering a team. The thrill of personal achievement often gives way to frustration as one grapples with the nuances of leadership. Invariably, the interpersonal dynamics take a dramatic turn as peers start perceiving you as “one of them” and not “one of us”. Your very identity within the group alters, particularly when leading unfamiliar team members. They will inevitably be curious and perhaps apprehensive about their relationship with you.
I confess, my ascent to a managerial position was far from smooth. The change in demeanor among my team members was disconcerting. I was consumed with a drive to prove myself worthy to my superiors and resolved not to mirror the tactics of my former boss. However, I inadvertently succumbed to wielding my authority like a sledgehammer, using a ‘carrot and stick’ approach, which proved futile. The revelation that I needed to acquaint myself with the art of leadership was inevitable. I sensed the fundamental building block was the cultivation of relationships. It was imperative that I redefine my rapport with my team without compromising the compassion that characterized our previous interactions. My aspiration was for the team to deliver remarkable results and show they valued my leadership. I initially expected them to take the initiative. It was a revelation that as a leader, the onus was on me to make the first move.
The Epiphany: Leaders Go First:
I embraced a behavioral-based leadership development model known as The Leadership Challenge. Its allure lay in its research-backed approach which included five practices, ten commitments, and thirty behaviors that exemplary leaders habitually adopt. The Leadership Practices Inventory, a 360-degree feedback tool, is instrumental in providing leaders with insights into their perception within the team. Though the model is more complex, it boils down to enhancing leadership by augmenting the frequency of positive behaviors. One pivotal behavior, Behavior 16, encapsulates the essence of responsive leadership: “I ask for feedback on how my actions affect other people’s performance.” In other words, it is about seeking to understand if you are bolstering or hampering your team’s performance and how you can facilitate their success. This can be termed servant leadership or talent-centric leadership, but at its core, it is rooted in common sense. It shifts the dynamics from a supervisory to a coaching relationship, from being an overseer to becoming an ally.
There is no magic potion for exceptional leadership, but there is a vital first step: Leaders must go first. By proactively seeking feedback and fostering a culture of support, leaders lay the groundwork for a healthy and productive relationship with their teams. It is this relational foundation that propels teams towards greatness. As a leader, be the trailblazer in nurturing relationships – be the first to extend your hand, and in doing so, you pave the way for collective success.