#MyFirst | How I’ve Learned to Become a Better Leader

PHOTO: Christopher Patey for MyDomaine

Ever since I could string a few words together on a page, I knew that prose was my passion. From a young age, you could find me nose deep, ingesting (and inhaling) the pages of a good book. In fact, there’s photographic evidence of me holding the hardcover version of Road Dahl’s Matilda (the cover was almost bigger than my head) with a Cheshire cat–like grin across my face. So, of course, my career trajectory took me down the journalist path, working for newspapers, magazines, and online. But as I’ve climbed the media ladder (with much excitement), writing has resumed the role of understudy while my new skillset slowly takes center stage: management.

Although many aspects of this new job description come naturally to me, keeping other people motivated and inspired while being a constant resource of support and motivation can be incredibly daunting, not to mention overwhelming. As a first-time manager, I can honestly say it takes patience, trust, transparency, and a positive outlook to lead a successful team of people who want to not only play ball but win, too (with a smile on their face). Here are a few things I’ve learned so far, with the help of some of my favorite experts on the topic.


When your role goes up a rank on the ladder, so does your task list. Remember, you’ve been promoted because the company has seen your potential, so know deep down that you can handle it. While some days it might seem like you’ll never cross everything off, there’s one thing on your to-do list you simply can’t skip: the one-on-one. This is the all-important meeting between manager and employee, and it’s invaluable. Why? This is probably the only chance you get to really deep-dive into their schedule and have an honest, open discussion on a professional and personal level. This conversation will make them feel important and a valued member of the team.

According to Julia B. Austin, senior lecturer of business administration atHarvard Business School, it doesn’t matter how long the check-in is (an hour a week or 30 minutes once a month), but “making time for an individual says you give a damn about them as a person.” She adds, “A leader who makes time for their team members — especially those who are also leaders — is less likely to suffer poor team performance because of ambiguity and mistrust. Each one-on-one is an opportunity to clarify the goals of the organization, your performance expectations and build a trusting relationship with your employees by getting to know them as people, not just workers.” So don’t skimp on the one-on-one.


Being a confident leader is key to making staff feel secure in your instructions and vision (or you can fake it till you make it), but it’s important to keep that grit in check. Being assertive and bold is a good thing, but a little humility goes a long way too. Don’t let your ego take the lead. David Dye, president ofTrailblaze Inc., and co-author of Winning Well, has helped numerous leaders on their path to successful management and believes this combination is one of the most powerful when asserting influence.

He told Blogging on Business, “Winning Well managers understand the important balance of confidence and humility; having the confidence to surround themselves with people who will challenge them, and whom they can learn from, while at the same time having the humility to know the mission is more important than their ego or what they can accomplish alone.”


If you want to motivate a team to give their all to a company and work their hardest, kindness goes a long way, so leave your bully tactics at the door. But how do you assert kindness without becoming a pushover? There is a danger in being too nice. Right? Just ask Bill Baker, author of Leading With Kindness, who told Charlie Rose that being kind “doesn’t mean being a doormat.” He explains, “A kind boss is not someone who just rolls over and does whatever his or her employees say to do, this is a firm person. There is a line that’s credited to Gandhi: ‘Don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.’ There is a big difference.”

Baker says managers who incorporate kindness into their leadership style will “generate and motivate people to do their best, more than you will with other sterner kinds of techniques like intimidation or fear.” He adds, “You have to rely on the people who are working with you and alongside of you, and if they’re not telling you what’s going on or if they’re afraid to tell you or if they’re only telling you what they think you what to hear, you’re going to drive the Mercedes right off the cliff.” That might sound dramatic, but you get the point. Being nice can be a powerful tool.

For more tips on how to be a successful manager, read more at MyDomaine.com. Do you have any first-hand tips to add to our list? Tell us in the comments below!

Originally published at www.mydomaine.com on September 1, 2016.