Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia

Managers tend to overlook the importance of empathy.

By Gary Vaynerchuk
May 16, 2015

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How do you go from a worker bee to a decision maker?” is by Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.

It’s very challenging to be a leader–I don’t think anyone will doubt that. I’ve spoken numerous times about what I think it takes to be a good leader (for starters, trying listening more and talking less) and a greater boss (actually interact with your employees once in a while). But something I don’t talk about enough is how to transition into the role of leader. And that can be the harder than actually leading once you get there.

The steps it takes to go from being a worker bee to a decision maker can be very difficult. Quite frankly, it scares the crap out of me. It requires you to go from execution mode–where you’re used to dealing with the nitty gritty–to managing a team. This means learning to delegate and set goals. And if not communicated properly, can cause a variety of business setbacks. But the bigger issue is understanding that when you’re a leader, you have to be the bigger man or woman in any given situation.

You can’t simply impose your will because you’re now the boss. There will be plenty of times where you will need to swallow your pride and do what’s in the best interest of the team. This means empowering those around you to do their jobs, but it also means something else: you need to be able to take the blame once in a while. At the end of the day, you’re the one leading the charge, so you need to be willing to accept responsibility for your successes, and more importantly, your failures. It all falls on you. No one likes a boss that passes the buck to an employee in a tough situation.

Another big part of the transition is being able to show empathy when needed. A lot of people overlook the importance of being able to show emotion. Even if you’ve always been an empathetic person, being the boss or leader of a project will change how you exercise it. Leaders need to listen and empower their team to become leaders themselves and take ownership of their work. Leaders need to understand who they are as a person and relay that emotional understanding to those around them–that takes courage.

It all boils down to self-esteem and self-awareness. If you can understand who you truly are as a leader, then you’ll be able to instill the same understanding in the team around you.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: How do you go from a worker bee to a decision maker?

Why your job title doesn’t actually matter by Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics.

Why this CEO believes you should be more opinionated at work by Sarah Kauss, CEO and founder of S’well.

How to be more bossy at work (in a good way) by Joe Hyrkin, CEO of Issuu.

The advantages of a tough boss by Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of Scripted.com.

How to smoothly transition from a colleague to a manager by Nir Polak, CEO and co-founder of Exabeam.

4 signs you’re ready to be a manager by Dominic Paschel, vice president of corporate finance and investor relations at Pandora Media.

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