You’ve been promoted into a leadership role and now, as a leader, you’re facing new challenges. Jeff and I have watched many people moving into leadership who have neither been briefed nor prepared to deliver results in a working environment where they:

  1. Must be authentic.
    There is nothing worse than a fake leader or manager – a person whose word cannot be trusted, who vacillates on decisions, saying one thing to one party and something else to another. Authenticity is a must for a leader.
  2. Must get results through others.
    Many new leaders and managers come to their positions from a place where they performed technical work, that is, they got results from their own efforts. This was easy because the person could easily let others see that the result was because they made it happen. Now, the objective is to get results through others. It sounds simple but it is usually a major emotional and psychological adjustment. Now it’s about helping someone else get the result. And that is hard for a lot of people.
  3. Must steward the culture as well as get results.
    A leader must not only get results. They must also protect the culture. And that means paying attention to the softer side of things, like values, behavior, a bias towards safety and justice in the workplace, equity and equality, etc. These are things of the heart, and a good leader spends energy protecting and promoting them.
  4. Need to hold others accountable. Many new leaders and managers come to their positions thinking accountability is negative. That is not true. It is positive. And there is an art and a science to doing it. The important thing is to make sure accountability happens by creating, for example, specific Key Performance Measures (KPIs) and job descriptions so the employee knows how they will be evaluated.
  5. Need to move non-performing persons either out of the organization or to another position.
    A major failure in management is not dealing with employees who are in the wrong job. So, they just leave them there and they hurt themselves and the organization. An effective leader will need to know how to deal with these situations.
  6. Need to deal with the politics in the organization.
    There will always be politics in an organization and the leader / manager must learn to deal with them in an authentic manner.
  7. Must genuinely care about their employees.
    Caring and being kind are key attributes of a good leader.
  8. Believe service is more important than authority.
    An effective leader must be more about service than they are about self-promotion and expression. If a leader or manager needs to make a point that they are in authority, then they are not confident and mature leaders or managers. And a good leader does not concern themselves with promoting their authority. They lead through service.
  9. Must not be afraid of change. Change is a big thing in leadership and management. Things are always changing. Great plans run into trouble. Wide open doors shut. The forecast is wrong. The promise someone made is not kept. Change. It is always with you. And a good leader can bob and weave with whatever comes their way.

All these points, and many more like them, boil down to this one reality – hardly anything you do as a leader or manager is firmly in your personal control. This means you will need to let go and work through others to get things done. And this letting go is one of the hardest things to do as a new leader.

So, while you are being the leader I describe in the points above, you will also need to work on yourself to let go of control – to trust others to get things done. Here is how I suggest you do this:

  1. Get in touch with your need to control. High-control people, like myself, remain in a high-control mode to prevent bad things from happening. I discovered this about myself through therapy and in talking to others about why I needed to be in control. It was simply to stop the consequences of hurtful things from happening to me. What is the core reason why you need to remain in control of things? Get in touch with that.
  2. Get in touch with your need for significance. The second inner journey that requires introspection is getting in touch with your need for significance. We all have this need, in varying degrees. But I find that many people are not in touch with how this need drives self-promotion and self-expression, often at the expense of others. As a result, a leader or manager will prioritize themselves over the people they manage, all the while unaware of the dynamics at play.
  3. Transition these two needs from getting results through self to getting results through others. Once you get in touch with your need for control and significance, and reach a place where you have honestly admitted to yourself that you engage in this kind of behavior, then you will be able to redirect those impulses toward becoming an effective leader who gets results through others. In essence, this is what “letting go” means. Now you can:
  • Help the person you manage create their way of achieving the objectives you want. Keep in mind, you can make sure that their way includes steps to avoid the happening of bad things or options to take if bad things do happen. Now you are letting them control the agenda rather than you having to do it.
  • Set up accountability measures (Key Performance Measures – KPIs) that can tell both of you about the progress or lack of progress on achieving those objectives.
  • Allow your employee to be onstage and receive the accolades, praise, and kudos for a job well done. Why can you do this? Because you now realize that you have had a key part in making that happen and you derive your significance from that reality, rather than having to be onstage yourself.

This may all sound simple, but it takes practice. If you make yourself practice these principles, you will find it easier and easier to let go of the person you have been, the one who needs to control everything and be onstage to receive all the praise. In due time, that new person will become a very effective leader and manager.