Leadership for New Leaders

I was chatting with friends at a gathering recently when I happened to ask the ~30-year-old daughter of the host about her new job. “It is going well,” she said, “but I am having a hard time with one of my new employees.”

She proceeded to explain how one employee didn’t seem pleased to have her as his new manager. “He has worked with the company longer than me and doesn’t seem to want to do what I ask.” Her husband joined the conversation and mentioned his similar challenges as a new leader at a different company. His company was larger, and he was benefiting from the leadership training they offered. I later realized the topic of leadership training was worthy of additional research and a helpful post, so here are Lean East’s four tips for new and emerging leaders. If you are an experienced leader reading this post, do you agree?

  1. Act like a leader

Leadership is a behavior, not a position. To be a good leader you must be accountable for your team’s actions and outcomes and do the things a good leader does. Below are a few examples. Are you consistent in doing these things?

  • Practice mindful listening – ask questions and seek to understand what your customers, employees, and partners are saying about your products and services.
  • Make positive change(s) – take responsibility for making decisions and effecting change. Lead improvements within your organization.
  • Set an example to others – instead of telling your team members what to do, show them by your own example. Don’t ask your direct reports to do things you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.
  • Demonstrate leadership character – think of others first and seek to serve your employees. Be optimistic about the future and believe you and your team can make a difference. Be fair and honest in your communication.
  1. Know and use your strengths

The best leaders learn their personal strengths and the strengths of the people on their team. They also allocate the work so people can do what they do best.

I joined an organization years ago and discovered quickly that the sales team and many customers did not enjoy working with my Customer Service Manager. He was impersonal, inflexible, and in danger of being fired when I joined the team. I soon discovered he was also an analytical thinker who understood the production systems and procedures better than anyone in the organization. I changed his responsibilities to “business analyst” and he soon became a high-performing and indispensable member of the organization.

Great leaders put their people in positions where they use their strengths. One do-it-yourself resource for discovering your own strengths is the book StrengthsFinder 2.0. This is an explanation of the Clifton Strengths popularized by Gallup. The value in the book is the companion online “StrengthsFinder” questionnaire where you can discover your top five strengths. (The questionnaire requires a code that comes with the book, so don’t try to buy this book used or borrow it from the library).

Several great individual profiling tools include Behavioral Styles 360, RAM, DiSC Assessments, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and Hogan Assessments. An individual examination of your personal styles and behavioral tendencies is helpful, but it is more powerful to have everyone on a team assess themselves at the same time. That way, they can learn effective strategies for working together.

  1. Help your employees succeed

In many organizations, the top individual performers are advanced into leadership positions. These new leaders need to shift their mindset and also learn to put the results of the team ahead of their personal accomplishments. Servant leaders see themselves as responsible for enabling each member of the team to perform at their best. The keys to effective servant leadership are:

  • Shared vision and communication – set a clear vision for the team with goals and measures of success and communicate this vision to every member of the team. Written goals and measures are much more effective than verbal communication.
  • Set clear expectations – work with each member of the team to develop expectations for how they will support the team goals and vision. Read our Green and Clean story for more information.
  • Regular performance reviews – regularly meet with each employee to review progress and ask how you can support their work. Be honest and candid with your assessment of progress and when providing feedback.
  1. Continue to grow your skills

You were promoted to your leadership role because of your skills, yet there is no such thing as a born leader. Leadership skills can be learned and improved continuously. Following the tips in this post can make you an effective leader. However, to be truly exceptional you must continue to grow and adapt. Three steps we recommend for doing this are:

  • Find a mentor – Identify another servant leader in your organization and ask them to meet with you occasionally and support your growth as a leader.
  • Seek 360-degree feedback – Survey your team members and peers to learn how they view your strengths and improvement needs.
  • Become a lifelong learner – Frequently reflect on your decisions/actions and how they impact others, read great books, articles, and blog posts about leadership and/or attend a leadership training.

If you are a new leader – congratulations! Just reading this post means you are willing to take action and develop your skills (two traits from this list).

I look forward to sharing this blog post with my friend’s daughter. Hopefully, her reluctant direct report will observe her candor and leadership character and come to recognize her as a respected leader who maintains a positive relationship with her team.

Leadership offers many rewards and great leaders will also be in demand. The Lean East team would be honored to serve as your coach and mentor in your continued growth.


Please provide additional tips in the comments section below.

3 thoughts on “Leadership for New Leaders

  • One of my favorite lines is “you must be accountable for your team’s actions and outcomes and do the things a good leader does”. Leaders don’t shy away from responding to the needs of teams and holding themselves and their team members accountable. They also “act”/ behave like leaders themselves.

    Great overview on how to start the journey of being a lifelong leader and learner. Each section covers essential information… so understanding what Steve has outlined, combined with the ongoing support of a good coach will undoubtably result in you becoming a valued leader in your organization.
    Thanks for the post!

  • Hi Andrea – Thanks for your post. It is curious why more leaders don’t set a good example. Is it because they don’t know how a good leader should act? I am fortunate to have had good mentoring and training myself, but work with many organizations where there are not good leaders as mentors.

  • Jay Casavant

    Great article but given the importance of your team- the ability to select and hire the right talent to fit your needs! You are only as good as your team so be sure to fully understand your challenges and make those challenges known to your prospective employees. Be transparent!

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