This job was a big leap for me, given that my previous position was an auditing manager at an accounting firm.
I’ll never forget that first day, walking into my new office and being suddenly thrust into the role of “leader”.
I’m sure many people noted the slight trembling in my voice that day as I jumped into the pool headfirst, shuffling budgets and rearranging org charts.
And I’m also sure many folks were wondering how, and why, this 27-year old guy stumbled into this kind of responsibility.
It wasn’t hard to miss that wondering, and consequently, it put a pretty large chip on my shoulder right off the bat. I had to prove their doubts wrong.
So I overcompensated, and did (and said) things that might have pushed the balls down the field, but weren’t very successful in building the right kind of trust-based relationships (you can read about a good example of this in my e-book).
In hindsight, it was a priceless learning experience, and now, 25 years later, when I mentor new leaders I tell them to make sure to remember these 6 things as they take their big leap:
1) Move not with haste, but with “Deliberate Speed” – There’s a big difference between frantic hurrying and steady urgency. One of my mentors noted my leaning towards the hurrying side early on and counseled me by saying that the best way to move forward was with “deliberate speed“. I immediately “got it” and those two words have guided me (successfully) ever since.
2) You do not need to know everything. Really. – It’s a common misconception for a first-time leader to think that they need to know “all there is to know“. I can remember my own semi-panic about this back in 1987 very vividly. It’s really more of a matter of developing an insatiable appetite for seeking out, and incorporating, essential knowledge as you go along. That’s really the key.
3) …and your people can know that you really don’t know everything – Leaders can show vulnerability; it’s just being human. And showing some humanity from the beginning is actually a much better way to build a team than putting up a impenetrable wall of “know it all” hubris.
4) Listen more than you talk – When I became a leader, I thought one of the assumptions was that I needed to do most of the talking. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Leadership is not a one-way street, not by any means. We should be taking in more information than we are putting out, always.
5) Honor the position by being honorable – I didn’t regard leadership as an honor and a gift until years after I should have. By doing so it demands actions in accordance with that honor; that is, basic politeness, courtesy, consideration, dignity, and kindness. To modify a (now) famous saying, “Leadership is as leadership does“.
6) Never – I mean never – make a unilateral decision – That example I talk about in my e-book? A very bad unilateral decision. Granted, you can decide for yourself which app you’d like to download on your iPhone, but when it comes to ANY decision that will effect those you lead, don’t make it in a vacuum – consult with those you trust, and remember that bit about “deliberate speed“.