Getting to lead people is exciting for young businesspeople. If you’re early in your career and have recently been promoted to a leadership position, congratulations! It’s a great achievement and you should be proud.
When I had my first opportunity to lead a small team, I was excited. I’d finally have some help after working my butt off at the bottom for many years. I was looking forward to making some more important (in my mind anyway) decisions. I was proud to tell people about my new title.
I also thought I had to have it all together. I thought I’d always need to the one with the answer. I thought I had to be there first and leave last. I’d heard of delegation, but really didn’t know what it was for or how to do it.
I was both excited and nervous, but I knew everything would be different from this point forward. I was on my way.
In hindsight, nothing was different
I had a new title, but I was still the same person. I was a young professional in my early twenties with little experience. I still drove the same car and lived in the same apartment. I still needed food and water to survive. I was the same fallible human being.
New titles are nice, but they’re only words. They often describe what we could become but aren’t currently. Titles are given easily, but earning them takes time. We shouldn’t put to much emphasis on our titles anyway because they can limit us. Our best ideas come from thinking beyond what our title suggests.
You know no more and no less
We need to remember that leadership positions don’t magically alter our knowledge. We won’t always have the answers before our team does, and shouldn’t feel pressured to do so. We shouldn’t limit our team’s creativity by assuming our answers are always the way. The benefit of having a team is that you don’t need to be the one to come up with all the answers.
Nor can we worry about looking silly if we have the wrong answer. You have the same brilliant ideas you did before. The same ideas that probably earned you this promotion in the first place. So share your ideas with your team and test them. Your team’s valuable feedback can improve your ideas and make them reality.
In general, relax and stay true to who you are
You’re the same person you were yesterday and probably will be tomorrow. Stick to your core values. Remember that you’re leading people who are more like you than not. Remain humble and confident and people will follow you.
If people don’t follow, all is lost
And this happens one interaction, one conversation, one day at a time. We get so caught up in these moments and assume life as we know it has drastically changed. Over time, these can prove to be unique experiences, but it’s important to stay grounded at the beginning so you can make the most of the opportunity.
This is the first installment of the 10-part Leadership 101 series. From here we’ll examine core principles that make great leaders. In case you’ve been misled to believe leaders are born and not made, I want you to know it’s a myth. All core leadership principles can be learned with a little education, self-reflection and experience.
So sit tight, relax and enjoy.