Take your talents, skills with you as you move up

Let’s say that, over the past few years, you have been a successful manager of strategies and operations, and more important, a respected and able colleague. Now you have been promoted to a leadership role, in part because you are educated, experienced and imbued with the characteristics of leaders you admire. How will you make this transition effectively?

It is critical not to leave behind those characteristics that earned you respect and success. Take them with you as you move onward and upward into a formal leadership role. In fact, it is almost certain that you were already a leader as a manager.

You just have not been exposed to the trappings that come with the leadership role — the formal title, extensive executive-level responsibilities and technical requirements, such as creating vision and strategies and representing the organization’s interest to the public. 

Yet leaders do not always operate from a lofty position. The business of organizational development requires the leader to operate as a manager, as well. Leadership experts see this melding of the manager and leader as vital. 

Jacob Morgan, a best-selling author and speaker on the future of the workplace, believes the transition between manager and leader is not abrupt — it is ongoing. Great managers can also become great leaders as they make the transition.

They earn leadership through their ability to foster productivity by supporting and advocating for their employees. Their management styles include leading by example and a general willingness to carry out — or at least greatly understand — the work performed by others. The foundation of their efforts is collective engagement and thought.

As you transition to your leadership responsibilities, the skills you developed and adroitly applied as a manager will be necessary. In fact, they will be important from day one as you learn the organization and its people. A willingness to roll up your sleeves and demonstrate your technical competence can help you to quickly build credibility within the organization and rally support for your vision. 

It is important to take a genuine interest in getting to know employees and understand their responsibilities, concerns, strengths and achievements. This engagement will help you to be a listening leader who can share authentic praise, give credit where it is due, and where necessary, call for improvement with a proper understanding of the people and circumstances.

As time progresses, it may be smart to withdraw from direct engagement and concentrate on those broader concerns where your ongoing involvement is expected as a leader.

Yet strong leaders will never forget their abilities as a manager that propelled them into leadership, and it is wise to keep those skills sharp by returning to direct engagement periodically when the situation warrants.

This helps to keep you honest and current, and it will enable you to continue to refine your own personalized leadership approach as you grow throughout your career.

This is from Alex Johnson’s book, “Change the Lapel Pin,” published by Smart Business Books, which is available through Tri-C campus bookstores or online at www.tri-c.edu/changethelapelpin.