There is a tremendous opportunity for growth, fulfilment and reward from stepping outside your comfort zone, despite how challenging it might feel at first.

However, feeling prepared makes every new jump feel less daunting, and all preparation starts with understanding. So, here it goes.

Step back to step up

For many, the challenge in stepping up is in the mindset shift you need to make when moving from management to leadership.

As a manager, your expertise was in controlling situations to maintain the status quo and in setting and achieving goals. As a leader, your skill will be in letting go of control of the day-to-day and instead delegating responsibility and assigning authority, allowing a trusted team to carry out a vision that you inspire them to reach for.

The skills that made you a good manager must be replaced by an ability to empower others to perform at their best.

To show you’re ready to become a leader means being prepared to have difficult conversations when needed, speaking up to show your ambition and proactively putting yourself forward in ways that demonstrate your leadership ability.

Underpin your purpose with worthy values

Getting to know yourself and your personal values is a vital part of grooming yourself for leadership. When you know what’s important to you in your working relationships, how you choose to handle crises and conflict or when it’s appropriate to act with compassion instead of compunction, you will embody a strong set of values that drives a loyal team to work eagerly toward your vision.

Be clear about your purpose. And be purposeful in how you set about fulfilling it.

Authentic leadership comes from steady adherence to your course, founded on principles that set a benchmark for everyone you are bringing on the journey. When you get this right, you won’t have to pull them, they will join in willingly.

Be your team’s chief cheerleader and other key tips

• Getting the most from your teams means recognising the suitability of talent among your individual reports and delegating accordingly. Challenge them to also reach beyond their comfort zones and instil confidence in their ability to achieve extraordinary things.
• Good communication with all levels in your team cannot be underestimated. Being included, informed and given what they need to know makes everyone feel valued and empowers them to do their best.
• Everyone wants to do a good job. Make a point of recognising achievements. It means the world coming from an admired leader.
• Make time for anyone who comes to talk to you personally and give your full attention to the conversation.
• When facing problems, deal with the cause and not the symptom to reach for a long-lasting solution that makes things easier for you and your team members.
• Try to foster a spirit of fun at work. Hordes of research back up how it increases both wellbeing and productivity.
• Plan regular time in your diary for strategising—about your vision, your goals and your methods of achieving these. Stepping out of the familiar atmosphere of your working environment can allow more clarity for fresh, uninterrupted thinking.

Build a tribe

Every leader depends on pillars of support. These don’t come just from your delegates.

Build a tribe around you of trusted contacts, professionally and personally, whose opinions, guidance and experience you trust. This is an invaluable resource that will help to give you the confidence and perspective to make good judgements, to remain assured that you’re doing a good job and to trust you can handle whatever comes your way.

Once you reposition yourself mentally, results will follow quickly, and you’ll make a smoother transition from manager to leader.

Deirdre O’Shaughnessy

Deirdre is a Partner at Odgers Berndtson Ireland. She specialises in senior executive appointments from Head of Function to Board level across a broad spectrum of industries and functions. Deirdre...



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