MY DECISION TO LEAD: LESSONS IN STEPPING UP

Recently our team leader was offered an opportunity overseas and left the organisation unexpectedly. Leaving behind a crucial leadership gap that needed to be filled. Realistically, recruiting for a senior role can take weeks or even months to conclude. Given that I had the most experience and time in the team, the organisation naturally leaned towards delegating the more senior tasks to me. Business does not stop when someone leaves, stepping up to this opportunity meant stepping out of my comfort zone Moving into this uncharted space has obviously lead me to new challenges with added responsibilities and expectations. In some ways, it felt like riding a bicycle for the first time, a little unbalanced at first but with patience and practice, the ride has become smoother. This would undoubtedly impact positively on my career goals if I was able to step up quickly and with the required leadership. Although it has been a daunting and uncomfortable change for me, in hindsight the stretch has allowed me realise the extent of my resilience and appetite for leadership.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM STEPPING UP

  • ATTITUDE IS KEY

I had to change my mindset, whilst before I was used to working on my own individual tasks. New tasks such as strategic decisions, future thinking and seeking new business were now on my to do list. Early on I knew I needed to collaborate with my team, which also meant allowing everyone to have their own voices. I had to consciously make the decision to lead, without that I would default back to the comfort zone of consultant.

  • LEADING WITH A LIGHT TOUCH

Yes, my colleagues are still my colleagues, but it was important for them to understand the expectations and goals that were set out by the organisation in order for our team to continue functioning. Moving from colleague to team leader can be tricky and it requires strong self-awareness. My focus was to keep the interactions in the team positive and act more as a benevolent leader than the boss. We were all under a huge amount of pressure in our team at the time, demonstrating how I could help with the load went a long way to maintaining productivity and motivation.

  • LETTING GO

In the process of stepping up, I had to overcome my fear of delegating. Having additional responsibilities has made me realise that I cannot do everything. It’s been interesting to see the more I let go and trust the team the easier delegation has become. In addition, I have seen the team grow and take on their own stretch assignments. When solving problems team collaboration has built our technical confidence and overall engagement.

“Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” — Christopher Robin
  • COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS

For those of us who hate conflict, myself included, this is an area of leadership that is 100% unavoidable. It’s ok to ask for advice from a mentor in these circumstances, and this has worked for me during my transition. I found preparing beforehand very helpful, it gave me the courage and clarity to have the courageous conversations calmly and professionally.

Knowing my team has been a real benefit for me in the area of courageous conversations, I am able to approach each team member with insight and compassion. I needed to be proactive, by providing immediate feedback when appropriate, it has allowed our team to continue to function at the fast pace the business demands.

Most importantly I have learned there is no perfect leader, over the past weeks I had to quickly figure out my own leadership style, which started with me taking a leap of faith in my own abilities. Looking back it’s hard for me to believe that in this short time I have grown so much. This experience so early on in my career has been an invaluable opportunity. I do look forward to the appointment of the new Head of Assessments for our team but am now in a better position to provide support than ever before.

Do you find yourself in a similar leadership situation? Complete our complementary ELI (Effective Leadership Index) assessment. This will help you discover your current appetite for leadership and personal leadership preferences. Please email me on Candice@Omnicor.co.za and I will set the assessment up for you.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” — Nelson Mandela

Author: Candice Pumphrett
Photo: Samuel Zeller — Unsplash