Preparing for a Promotion to a Leadership Management Position
by Jacquie Wise
I’d love to go for a management position. Everyone is telling me I should; I know I have the experience and knowledge and I’m bored with my current job. I can’t see myself staying at this level. But the next step includes leadership and I have no knowledge or experience of leading people. Sometimes, I’ve tried asking people to do things and they take no notice of me. I’m scared of being thrown into a leadership position and totally failing.
You probably have a better instinct than you realise, because leading a team is not much different from leading friends or family. At management level you have the bigger picture of course, because, as a manager, you know what needs to be done to further the organisational goal whilst minimising any negative impact on your team.
You’ll realise how much you already know if you recall what worked for you with leaders you’ve had. Include the behaviours of teachers and family members. Which were more supportive and encouraging, and which held you back?
You’ll figure out that it was the ones who gave you constructive feedback, who were clear and consistent with their instructions, who took the time to show you how, who were honest and open so you could trust them, those who encouraged discussion and listened to your opinion—these were the ones who were good leaders.
As you’re doing this, take into account your own personality and your preferences and recognise that not everyone will like the same approach. Some people will respond well if you’re direct, even blunt, whereas others who are more sensitive will need a gentler, more subtle approach. You need to be flexible and patient enough to find the right way to get this person to do what needs to be done, and in the right way.
The leaders who held you back, from whom you can learn how NOT to be, are likely to have similar behaviours too. They were basically the opposite: they were unclear with their directives or kept changing their minds without explaining their reasons, they probably blamed you for problems without bothering to listen to your perspective, they didn’t let you know how well, or how badly you were doing so you had to guess your way through, constantly afraid of reprisal. Sound familiar?
Just to help you a little further; there are three styles of leadership.
Some people adopt one style predominantly, which is actually not a good idea, as you will see. The best leaders are able to shift from one style to another as needs demand.
Autocratic style of leadership
This is the ‘Do as I say and don’t argue’ style. If used consistently, it can be seen as very arrogant and pompous and usually gets people’s backs up. This style doesn’t encourage loyalty, only fear.
However, in an emergency, you do have to be autocratic if you need to tell people to drop what they’re doing and attend to something else urgently.
This style is also useful with those who need to be told what to do step by step or who need close supervision—beginners, or staff who haven’t the capacity to think beyond the step they’re working on.
Another reason for you to become autocratic is when you’re dealing with anyone who needs strong discipline: the trouble makers or the belligerent ones. We can see how being autocratic has its uses. But you need to drop into that style very selectively.
Passive or Permissive style of leadership
This is the leader who gives people a free reign to do things their way as long as they’re meeting requirements. People who are independent, resourceful and competent thrive under this kind of leadership. They’re given the freedom to decide for themselves without having someone breathing down their neck. This leader’s message is: ‘I’m here if you need me, but as long as you’re doing your job well, I won’t bother you.’
It has its place, but what about staff who need strong direction and support? That’s where the weakness of this style lies. It risks giving a ‘Can’t be bothered’ message to your staff.
Too often, passive leaders fail to notice which staff need training; they fail to see the need for giving people feedback on whether they’re on the right track and what opportunities are available to pursue their career path…that creates problems.
Democratic style of leadership
This leader will discuss things with their team so that everyone is on the same page, can understand reasons behind decisions and have the chance to discuss tasks and standards needed. That way, staff are more likely to own the decision made and follow through.
Teams under the democratic style are more likely to co-operate with one another. There’s more of a team spirit. This leader will lead by example.
In summary, sometimes you’ll need to be autocratic, or at least assertive and firm. Sometimes you can be passive and leave those who like autonomy alone, when you can trust they’ll do a good job. And most of the time, you’ll be democratic and ask more questions than you’ll give directives.
Another expression I like about good leadership is ‘leading from behind’. Like a shepherd leading sheep by gently nudging them, only when they step out of line.
The most challenging aspect of
leadership is disciplining staff.
If you’ve had difficulty up to now getting people to follow a course of action, could it be that you lacked authority? Of course no one is going to take any notice of you if you haven’t been given clear authority to give direction and take corrective action. Don’t think of it as your failing.
Discipline is the aspect that phases new leaders the most. It’s never easy to bring someone into line, especially if we need to start the process of terminating them. Who enjoys that?
If you’re shuddering at the thought, it’s a sign that you need to develop assertiveness. That’s always a useful life skill anyway and essential if you’re aspiring to a leadership position.
Aside from that, there is a specific cycle to go through when disciplining someone, quite aside from legal requirements. You’ve just given me an idea for another article!
If you do get the promotion, just remember that a good leader is one who:
Knows the way
Shows the way
And goes the way
If you’d like to discover more ways to prepare for a promotion, contact me directly to arrange a convenient appointment time.
I’d love to know what you think of what I’ve said here. You can give me your feedback, ask a question by email or post a comment below.
If you or someone you know would like a personal consultation, please call +61 3 9690 8159.
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