Six lessons for new leaders

As leadership positions open up, high-growth companies often look to hire top producers who appear ready for a new challenge. Promoting from within sends a message that your company values strong performance and loyalty. But it also can derail progress if the new manager isn’t prepared to make the transition.

Sales acumen does not guarantee leadership success.

Even the most charismatic and driven field employee may find it difficult to shift from a producer to a leader. That’s understandable, given unfamiliar dynamics and high expectations coming both from the top and bottom.

So what can you do to get a jumpstart in your new management role?

Here are a few tips I’ve learned personally and by observing my colleagues at System One who’ve successfully navigated the journey. A hint for established leaders: Most of these apply to you as well.

1. It’s not about you

Congratulations! You earned this promotion by virtue of your own hard work. But now that you’re in charge, it’s no longer about what merits you personally bring to the team.

It’s about serving the needs of those you’re leading and the company at large. Don’t rest on your laurels or take yourself too seriously.

2. Practice delegation

Always ask yourself, am I the best person to perform this task? It’s tempting to stay within your comfort zone, but being a leader doesn’t mean you should do other people’s work for them.

If you always serve as the go-to problem-solver, it undermines your team.

3. Hone your time management skills

Your sanity — and your success — depends on your ability to balance day-to-day tasks with strategic vision setting.

Be ruthless in protecting your time. If it means not scheduling that one extra meeting or telling someone upfront you only have five minutes to talk, make the tough call.

4. Ask for help

Be candid with yourself and acknowledge what you know and don’t know. It may seem counterintuitive, but not asking for help when you should can make you look weak and damage your credibility.

Proactively reach out to team members — both above and below your new rank — who can inform your thinking with different perspectives.

5. Be transparent

The more transparent you are, the more candid your team will be about their own challenges, opportunities and ideas.

When you’re new in a role, you may not yet be in a position to articulate strategy, but you can set the stage by openly discussing your observations, priorities and values. Be consistent, but also be yourself.

6. Be decisive

When you do know what needs to be done, don’t second-guess yourself. Having been on the front lines has given you a unique perspective on your actions as a manager, so don’t be afraid to own your decisions.


If you approach every day as an opportunity to learn, rather than an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, you’re heading in the right direction. Enjoy the ride, and good luck!


Greg Lignelli is the COO of System One Holdings LLC, which delivers workforce solutions and integrated services to help clients get work done more efficiently and economically, without compromising quality.