What do you do when you’re the most powerful person in the room—in other words, everyone is looking to you to cast a vision, make a decision, and step up and be the leader? How do you handle that? Where do you go
Congratulations you have just been given a leadership role. Whatever the process that got you here, no matter the emotional state you are in (excited, nervous, tired, insecure), you are the leader. Whether this is your first leadership role or your tenth, here are a few first steps I have found to be helpful:
1. Develop an Intentional Plan: Have a plan for the first day, the first week, the first month, and the first ninety days. (Reference the book, First 90 Days). It is critical that you establish your leadership quickly. You don’t have to accomplish all of your leadership objectives in this time frame but you need to establish your leadership voice, presence, and style.
2. Leadership Voice: The people you lead need to hear from you immediately after you are named leader. In the first ninety days you need to establish how you will communicate and how often. I have found a mix of communication forums are best to allow for the diversity of preferences of the team. Live addresses, regular e-mails, and informal walking around are all important. You are the leader and your team needs to hear from you on a regular basis. Silence is deadly and you can’t give your leadership voice away to others. Be yourself, use your voice, your style, and be authentic. Get comfortable being you.
3. Mission and Vision: It is your job to cast the vision for your team and to keep the vision in front of your team at all times. It is the guardrails for your team. It is how you make decisions critical for success. One of the greatest dangers of any organization is wasting energy and resources on actions not in line with your mission. One of the best tools you can give your team is the clarity to say “no” as they make day-to-day decisions. It is okay to go through a season to assess your mission, getting input from the team and others. If you chose that path, let your team know you are doing that and the process you will use for assessment and input. Also, let them know the time line. It is important that you clarify mission and vision quickly so you can lead your team forward.
4. Know Your Team: As part of your first ninety days, your team needs to be a priority. A great deal of your leadership energy will need to be given externally but your first priority is getting to know your team. Here are a few things I have done: take a deep dive into the history of the team, familiarize yourself with the organizational charts and team structure, do employee surveys, and set up listening sessions. It is important to let your team know that you are going to spend time “learning” so you can make the best decisions for the future. The time spent learning will be of great value to you as you make decisions for the future.
5. Love Your People: I personally think you have no equity to lead unless you love the people you lead. To love them, you need to know them and understand the work they do. That requires spending time with them actively listening and actively learning. Be honest with them. If changes are coming, let them know and let them know why. The mission of your team is carried out through the people your lead. One of the greatest rewards and blessings of leadership is the joy of the people you lead.
Welcome to leadership! I pray that God would work through you and your team and you would find great joy in your leadership. Our team prayed this passage over our work and it would be my prayer for your team:
“Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands—establish the work of our hands!” (Ps. 90:17 HCSB)