7 Questions New Leaders Want Answered

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New leaders are often unaware of how to influence others. Up to this point, their strengths lie in their technical skill set, and ability to take responsibility. In fact, they've likely been relied upon and rewarded for their technical know how and initative.

That all changes when taking on a leadership role, whether leading a new project or team, they may work in situations that no longer require them to rely on their technical expertise.

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 - in other words, I have influence because of what I know and the title I have.

When I train or coach first time leaders who take on project or team lead responsibilities - positions that require them to get work done through others, but not necessarily management responsibility - here's what they often ask: 

“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 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 them do their jobs well so they can become effective leaders and enjoy their leadership role?

I recommend you have an honest conversation with the new leader and share and discuss answers to the following seven questions:

  1. Why were you chosen for a leadership role?
  2. How does leadership differ from being an independent contributor?
  3. How will their technical expertise will help them and hinder them?
  4. What level of technical expertise do they need to continue to develop?
  5. How can they rely on and lead others with differing technical expertise?
  6. What new leadership challenges can they expect to encounter along the way?
  7. How will they 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.

Here's a few articles on leading with influence that you can share with them to help them grow their influence, and in turn, their confidence and impact.  

10 Ways to Increase Your Influence

Believing in People Brings Out the Best in People

Three Easy Steps to Positively Influence Others

Lisa Holden Rovers, MSc, CPHR, PCC, is the Founder of Workplace Matters. Since 2005, Lisa has been coaching entrepreneurs and executives to grow as leaders and spark team cultures that thrive. She’s an award-winning human resources professional and a certified leadership and team coach who is passionate about helping people step into what is possible.  

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