Careers & Entrepreneurship / Editorial

Taking the Lead: Tips for Transitioning from Solo Flyer to Legendary Leader

No one told me just how challenging it would be to become a leader. It sounds a little silly to say out loud, but as someone who thrives at work and has a fierce passion for what they do, I thought transitioning from basically flying solo to taking charge wouldn’t be too difficult – spoiler alert, I was wrong.

What I came to realise was I just didn’t have the full toolkit of skills for leadership (the joy of hindsight). Honestly, I didn’t even realise I would need a completely different set of skills. I went from being completely focused on my own achievements and goals to having to zoom out, look at the bigger picture and focus on what everyone in the team was achieving – easier said than done.

Seeing how unprepared I was for a leadership role made me realise not only what a big challenge and change it can be, but how unsupported we often are – it’s time to open up the conversation and get leadership training on the map.

With 69% of millennials concerned their workplace isn’t helping them develop crucial leadership skills, it’s safe to say I’m not alone in this train of thought. 

My challenge is your triumph, and like a true leader, I want share a few key pieces of advice for anyone who has made, or is in the process of making, the transition to #leadershiplife.

There’s no ‘i’ in team

If you’ve landed that leadership role, first off, whoo, congrats! Getting here is no small feat, so be proud of yourself! However, it’s also time for a bit of a reality check – the truth is your career is no longer about you.

To reach this point you’ve probably been solely focused on me, myself and I. It’s been all about getting those projects finished, reaching those achievements and smashing those goals. Now that you’ve made it here, you have to completely change up your mindset. It’s no longer about how well you’re doing, but how well your team is doing – yep, you have to shift your focus to others. Sentences now begin with ‘we’ instead of ‘I’ and your achievements are now your team’s achievements. 

For my high-performing individuals out there, this can be a tough switch to make, but I’ve got a few quick, but effective, tips for you:

  • Shift your mindset and see your team as the hero of your collective success.
  • Make your office a positive collaborative environment – get excited about working with others.
  • Understand that empowering your team, with delegation, motivation and mentoring, ensures you can all perform your best.

Are you a leader or a manager?

Is there even a difference? Answer – yes, and knowing the difference is the first step in finding success when it comes to taking the reins.

Management is all about controlling people in order to achieve a certain goal. Leadership on the other hand is about being able to influence, motivate and enable people to be able to contribute to the organisation’s success.

As a leader, you’ll be doing a little bit of both. Being able to walk that fine line of knowing when to really take control and when to more gently push people in the right direction is the real key to success here.

It’s not about what you know

Landing a role like this means you’ve probably accumulated a particular set of skills (did you read that in Liam Neeson’s voice too) and a wealth of knowledge over the years, and been rewarded for it. Now that you’re here, all of that doesn’t really matter as much.

We’re not saying you should stop learning (definitely not), but being a leader isn’t just about being an expert – just knowing all the answers won’t get people excited to follow you.

Your new role is more about people – finding the best ones for your team (maybe some who are even better than you), getting them to stick around and letting them do their thing while you support them in their success. 

The new skills you’ll need to master are active listening, avoiding micro-managing, mentoring and moving roadblocks. 

It’s also not a bad idea to expand your horizons and learn more about other areas that intertwine with your work – this helps with filling those skills gaps.

It’s about who you are

“A leader is advised to reach for a heart before they reach for a hand.”

If you haven’t read “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John Maxwell, I recommend doing so after you finish this article. If anyone is going to get you inspired about being a leader it’s John.

One great point he focuses on is forging a real connection with your team on an emotional level. To do this, as John says, ‘you must first know yourself’. Having a solid understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, creativity and vision is key.

Your team wants to understand who exactly it is they’re working with. They want to know why you’re here and what your goals are – they can’t be inspired to come on a journey with you if they don’t know what that journey is.

It’s ok to ask for help

Stepping up and becoming a leader isn’t as simple as it seems. There will be challenges, expectations and pressures, some of which you probably would have never anticipated. It might sound a little scary, but it’s nothing you can’t handle.

This isn’t something you master in a month, it’s a continual journey. However, if you can get a grasp on the dot points above and embrace the power of your team, you might surprise yourself with what you can achieve. 

Remember, it’s ok to ask for help.