New leaders typically are unaware of how to influence others. Up to that point, their strengths lie in their technical skill set and initiative. In fact, they likely have been relied upon and rewarded for their technical expertise.
Yet, when tasked with taking on a leadership role, whether to lead a new project or team, they may work in situations that no longer requires them to rely on their technical knowledge. If left on their own, these new leaders can get frustrated being in a leadership role. Why? Because they are not equipped with the skill set they need to lead others. Additionally, they may equate influence with their knowledge and authority.
“If I don’t have the same knowledge others on the team do, then how can I influence them? If I don’t have the authority to discipline them, then I can’t influence them.”
What they really want is to be as successful in their new leadership role as they were in their independent contributor role. But they are not sure they can be because leadership is a very different skill set. What made them successful before may not help them be successful in their new role.
At a seminar I attended, leadership expert John Maxwell stated it succinctly, “It is important to acknowledge that doing your job well and leading others are two different skill sets. Doing your job well is only a prerequisite to leadership.”
If a new leader feels like they are failing at leadership, they may want to resort back to growing their technical career – a role where they have proven they can make a difference.
If you have a new leader on your team, how do you start helping others who do their jobs well to become effective leaders and learn to enjoy their leadership role? I recommend that you have an honest conversation with the new leader and discuss the following:
- Why they were chosen for a leadership role
- How leadership differs from being an independent contributor
- How their technical expertise will help them
- What level of technical expertise they need to continue to develop
- How they can rely on others with differing technical expertise
- What leadership challenges they can expect along the way
- How they will be supported to meet those challenges
Once you’ve reassured them that leadership can be learned overtime – just like they learned to become a technical expert – you can begin to intentionally develop an action plan to help them grow their leadership influence. And they in turn, will begin to develop the confidence to lead.