For most people, career progression is one of the most important factors in their professional lives – even more so than financial reward. Setting career goals and achieving them is a huge contributor to workplace satisfaction. Employers support this progression, to ensure that there’s a consistent supply of managers and leaders to fill the inevitable gaps when key personnel leave an organisation. However, making the leap from manager to leader isn’t an easy one, and it can be a huge culture shock for those who are unprepared for it. Below we look at 5 key things you should know, before stepping up from a position of management to a leadership role.
1) Leadership is no place for specialists: In your rise to the position of management, you will have become a specialist in a given area, function or department. This specialism is your comfort zone, and the longer you have spent perfecting your specialism, the harder it will be to break free from this. Great leaders need to have as much cross-functional knowledge as possible, in order to evaluate the performance of teams under their control and make informed business decisions. It can be very easy to over-manage the area where you’re a specialist and under-manage less familiar areas under your control.
2) You need to live corporate strategy: It’s not just as simple as moving from tactician to strategist, you must lead by example like never before. Part of your job as a leader will be to embed the overall strategy throughout the business. You will need to achieve buy-in from the entire organisation – from the janitor to the senior management team. The way to do this is through your actions and actively communicating your support in everything you do.
3) Integration of multiple functions is crucial: As a leader you will be accountable for delivering the overall corporate strategy, not just the performance of a single unit. You will need to place less value on competition and more on collaboration. Be prepared for the need to align interests between various functions, in order to form alliances which contribute towards overall objectives.
4) Managing external relationships is important: It is no longer just internal stakeholders who you will be answering to. Leaders need to balance the competing demands of a host of external stakeholders too. These could include communities, industries, the Government and stock markets. Part of the role of a leader is to build these relationships, and you should be prepared to apportion a significant amount of your time to developing these associations.
5) There will be dark times: Make no mistake about it, the leap from manager to leader is often a huge one. New leaders can find themselves discouraged as they come to terms with their new, often long anticipated, role. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that the role is wrong for you. However it’s not the new levels of responsibility that create the unease, but the transitions that have to be made and the uncertainty that this brings. It’s only natural, one day you’re a manager and the next day you’re a leader – your personal transition is bound to take much longer, and there will be plenty of doubt along the road.
Moving up the corporate ladder can bring huge rewards financially, and most importantly, in job satisfaction. Making the transition from manager to leader can be a huge culture shock, and if you’re unprepared for the changes this brings, you may find yourself missing the management role you were so keen to step away from.