4 things new managers should know about leadership

Cultivating a leadership presence is one of the biggest challenges a new manager faces, writes Amy Jen Su for the Harvard Business Review.

Jen Su is co-founder and managing partner of Paravis Partners, an executive coaching and leadership development firm, as well as co-author of Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence

Going from a contributor to a manager can be an intimidating experience, Jen Su writes. One of the first things a new manager must learn is to demonstrate leadership, because doing this successfully can have a positive effect on their teams.

Jen Su recommends four habits to practice that will help new managers become true leaders.

1: Set goals

Managers who don't immediately set goals end up feeling lost in a vast array of priorities, Jen Su argues. She recommends considering what kind of leader you want to be, including some specific characteristics you want to demonstrate every day. For example, maybe your goal is to be emotionally intelligent.

As you make the transition to a leadership role, it's helpful to transition your approach and mindset as well, according to the authors of The Leadership Pipeline, Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel. They argue that successful managers must learn to prioritize supporting others through planning and coaching, rather than simply focusing on their own work.

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2: Be aware

Sometimes new managers make the mistake of assuming that whatever motivates them will also motivate their direct reports, writes Jen Su. But she warns that assumptions like this are a bad idea—instead, she recommends simply asking your team what motivates them.

Jen Su warns new managers to avoid one-size-fits-all solutions. She argues that being adaptable will help you work better with everyone on your team, no matter what their work style.

3: Balance decisiveness and openness

Often, managers forget that an essential part of being effective is the ability to communicate clearly and directly, writes Jen Su. She argues that good communication strikes a balance between being decisive and listening to others.

To do this, Jen Su recommends choosing what stance you will take before an important meeting or discussion and preparing to articulate why you think the way you do. Then, at the meeting, she recommends taking time to understand other perspectives, asking questions and providing feedback.

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4: Stay calm

We all show our vulnerabilities when we're stressed, but being an effective manager requires you to remain calm in the face of difficulty, writes Jen Su.

She cites Daniel Goleman, who points out in his book, Primal Leadership, that managers can't control their employees' moods, but they can control their own mood. Goleman argues that a manager's reaction to a challenge can set the tone for their team.

Jen Su also cites research by Amy Edmundson, a professor of leadership and management at Harvard Business School, who notes that when a manager promotes an environment of psychological safety and accountability, their team learns more and performs at a higher standard (Jen Su, Harvard Business Review, 8/8).

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