Most new leaders are startled and taken aback by their new, unexpected and unfamiliar roles.

For someone in charge, they are shocked by time and information limitations and altered personal and professional relationships.

Here are the common surprises new leaders face, and the warning signs that should tell you it is time to make adjustments.

 

Surprise One: You really cannot run everything  

warning signs:

  • You are in too many meetings and involved in too many tactical discussions.
  • There are too many days when you feel as though you have lost control over your time.

Surprise Two: You learn that there is a price to giving orders

warning signs:

  • You have become the bottleneck.
  • Employees are overly inclined to consult you before they act.
  • People start using your name to endorse things, as in, “Stephanie says…”

Surprise Three: You don’t know what is going on

warning signs:

  • You keep hearing things that surprise you.
  • You learn about events after the fact.
  • You hear concerns and dissenting views through the grapevine rather than directly.

Surprise Four: You are always on display

warning signs:

  • Employees circulate stories about your behaviour that magnify or distort reality.
  • People around you act in as if they are trying to anticipate your likes and dislikes.

Surprise Five: You feel like you are on shifting ground

 warning signs:

  • You don’t know where you stand with your boss or board.
  • Roles and responsibilities between your boss or board are not clear.
  • The discussions in board or executive meetings are limited mostly to reporting on results and decisions.

 

Implications On Your Leadership

The ‘five surprises’ have tremendous implications on how a new leader should perform their role.

First: Learn to manage organizational strategically rather than focus on daily operations. Strategic leadership, not diving into the details, can be a jarring transition.

One client, a CEO, said that he initially felt like the company’s “most useless executive,” despite holding all the power.

He needed to learn how to act in indirect ways by:

  • setting and communicating strategy,
  • putting sound processes in place,
  • selecting and mentoring key people that create the conditions that will help others make the right choices.

At the same time, he needed to learn how to set the tone and define the organization’s culture and values through his words and actions—in other words, demonstrate how employees should behave.

 

Second: Leaders must recognize that a position does not automatically give the right to lead, nor does it guarantee loyalty.

Leaders must perpetually earn and maintain the moral authority to lead. CEOs can quickly lose their legitimacy if:

  • their vision is unconvincing,
  • if their actions are inconsistent with the values they espouse, or
  • if their self-interest appears to trump the welfare of the organization.

They must realize that success ultimately depends on the ability to enlist the voluntary commitment rather than the forced obedience.

Mastering the conventional tools of management may have the promotion or appointment of a Leader, these tools alone will not keep you there.

In a heartbeat, the leaders can quickly lose their legitimacy if:

  • their vision is unconvincing,
  • their actions are inconsistent with the values they espouse, or
  • their self-interest appears to trump the welfare of the organization.

Finally, it is essential that the leader maintains humility and must not get absorbed in the role.

Even if others think you are omnipotent, you are only human.

Failing to recognize this will lead to arrogance, exhaustion, and a shortened tenure.

By maintaining a personal balance and staying grounded, the leader can achieve the perspective required to make decisions in the interest of the organization and its long-term prosperity.

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