MPW Insider is one of several online communities where the biggest names in business answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time? is written by Maxine Mann, president of Teknion U.S.
Many people aspire to be in a leadership role within their organization; for them, it is the pinnacle of their career — the ultimate achievement. But leadership is not an easy road and it’s not for everyone. My advice for people going into leadership actually begins by taking a few steps back. The very first thing to do is to think about why you want to be in a leadership position.
Too often, I’ve heard employees who are already making significant contributions to their business say, “I’m almost 40, I should be in a leadership position at this point,” or “This is just the next step in my career.” And I would say that 50% of the people I ask this question are unable to articulate the reason for this aspiration. So, dig deep within yourself to find your motivation. Once you have absolutely decided this is a step you want to take, the next move is to prepare for it properly. Here are five things that every person going into a leadership position needs to consider:
Accept you may be unpopular. If you’re an effective leader who has integrity and willing to keep information confidential, you will rarely be able to share why you made a certain decision —even if it was in the company’s best interest. This will make you unpopular at times. And if you don’t have the strength to accept that, then you’ll need some time to prepare yourself for that reality.
Understand the power of your words. What you said before you took a leadership role will be scrutinized and analyzed far more after you take that leadership role. Be sure your messages are consistent—and that what you say doesn’t offend anyone inadvertently. The comments you make as a peer versus as a leader hold much more weight.
Always listen. In meetings, make sure to ask questions. You’re not going to be present for everything anymore — that’s part of the job. Instead you need to make decisions based on information relayed from your team. The ability to really listen is a “make it or break it” quality for those who wish to be a leader.
Trust your team. One of the most difficult realizations for new leaders is that you can’t do it all yourself. Even if you’re fantastic — if you try to do everything– you will fail. So, you’re going to have to trust your team will effectively execute ideas. It will free your time to focus on the many other tasks you will be juggling. If you can’t trust your team’s capability to critically reason and execute, then you’ll need to consider making changes to the team in order to get there.
It’s not about you anymore. Once you’ve become a leader, the reciprocity between co-workers—asking them how they feel or how work is going for them — is pretty much gone. If you’re going to be a successful leader, you’ll need to be okay with placing your sole focus on coaching and developing your employees.
Despite some of the challenges that being in a leadership may present, it is still one of the most rewarding things you can do. You’ll have the honor of working with intelligent people who push you to be better. And seeing a plan come together by a team that you led—well, there’s no better feeling than that.
Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
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