Written by: Emma Collyer, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Moving from manager to leader can be a tricky transition. Often nobody is there to help you understand the difference between the roles, and the expectation is that you can just do it all without support. This happens even more frequently with technical experts who are great in their specific job (often a narrow niche or specialism), being promoted to leadership roles that they are not equipped to deal with.
My article attempts to explain what the differences are between the roles and how best to address them to ensure you can be effective as a leader and achieve amazing results.
I recently came across an individual who asked me in a coaching session, how do I get people to do what I tell them to do? We discussed for a while how that individual liked to be approached by their manager. They revealed that they preferred a discussion and to be able input into what their task or tasks would look like and to fully understand what the desired outcome was. At no point did they say that they wanted to be ‘told’ exactly what to do and how to do it…..it was fascinating.
They also shared they were finding other aspects of their role difficult to navigate and it struck me that perhaps there are lots of people who struggle with this shift from manager to leader. From the ‘instructor of tasks’ to the ‘inspirer of outcomes and high performance.’
When I thought more about my own journey and how I successfully made that transition, a few aspects came to mind which are set out below as my ‘top tips’:
More listening than speaking – as a manager I felt like I was the ‘sharer’ or ‘deliverer of messages and instructions.’ There was less listening of what the team had to say. As a leader, this changes - you say less and listen more to those around you to understand issues fully before deciding a course of action.
Asking rather than telling – As a manager, you are often dealing with ‘transactional tasks’ and therefore ‘telling’ is more commonplace. As a leader, asking for input on what needs to be done and asking whether others can assist, becomes a far more effective way of operating.
Questioning rather than making assumptions – I often made assumptions about what was going on for individuals, or created a narrative in my head about what was happening. When I moved into a leadership role, I started asking more questions and gathering information before taking a position. (This caused a lot less headaches!)
Inspiring others (vision) – One of the biggest differences I appreciated between the roles, was a need to create a ‘vision’ for others within the team (with input from them.) This helped to clarify the direction that the team was heading and what would be needed along the way.
Lead by example (behaviours) – When I moved into a more significant leadership role I was surprised when people really listened and then replicated what I had said or did. I hadn’t appreciated that those you lead are watching and copying behaviours and narrative. So only do and say what you want to see from your team.
Strategic actions rather than busy ‘tasks’ – We can all keep ourselves ‘busy’ with lots of tasks that are often repeated transactional activities. But what I noticed myself doing more (as a leader) was taking time to think through strategic actions and plans that would yield far greater results.
Self reflection and awareness – I noticed that as my role increased in seniority and responsibility, I needed to learn and stretch myself more to ensure I was successful at my job. This included an increased amount of self reflection and understanding of who I was, what my strengths and gaps were to then plan for development and growth.
Once we realize that an upward trajectory (in our career) requires a different skillset and approach (and one that we have not tried before) it becomes easier to plan, reach out for support and appreciate the effort that will be needed. The greatest error we can make, moving from manager to leader, is to believe we already know enough to do this well and to sit back in the comfort of our existing skills.
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Emma Collyer, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Emma Collyer is the founder of Aspire Executive Coaching, a company dedicated to helping executives, leaders and aspiring leaders, to grow and succeed in their business and careers. She created the business after experiencing firsthand the transformative power of coaching on her own development and growth. Her coaching draws on her own leadership experience, working across the built environment sector alongside environmental specialists, engineers, planners, project managers and architects. Her mission: to empower individuals so that they have the courage to embrace change and achieve exceptional results.