First Time Manager? Aspire to be an Authentic Leader

Babajide Duroshola
The Andela Way
Published in
4 min readApr 4, 2018
Session on Finding Purpose to ALC 2.0 Participants

One of the most curious things on a first time manager’s mind is; “Now that I’m a manager, what is my job? what do I do next? and how do I lead my team?”

Everytime I think about it, something Vala Afshar (CIO at Salesforce) said that struck me, always comes to mind;

“Dear Manager, your job is not to make people work harder, your responsibility is to help your team achieve their goals, let them know that their work matters, and to recognise and reward those who constantly help the team deliver timely, high quality and positive outcomes.”

In my professional career, I have had up to 7 line managers, consisting of authentic managers, autocratic managers, micromanagers, coaches, cheerleaders etc. However, in the last 2 years, I’ve become a manager and everyday I find myself striving to become an authentic leader as this is the leadership style that emphasises building legitimacy through honest relationships built on ethical foundations with followers who value the input.

By building trust and generating enthusiastic support from my line reports, I have been able to improve my team’s overall performance and here are a few pointers on how to achieve this;

Inspire trust: Your main goal as a leader is hinged on your ability to inspire trust while leading your team to achieve set objectives. Inspiring trust requires you to;

  1. Not over commit and keep your promises
  2. Admit your mistakes and own up to your own shortcomings
  3. Share credit and acknowledge every team member’s contribution
  4. Maintain an open book policy in sharing information whilst getting to know your team and developing a good relationship with them
  5. Stay consistent in your message
  6. Be a straight arrow (always give a direct answer when asked questions)
  7. Not talk about others behind them
  8. Listen to learn from all members of your team

Always remember you are leading a set of smart individuals and trust is like a mirror, once broken can be fixed but the cracks would remain. You don’t want your team second guessing your vision or why you do the things you do.

Lead from the second chair: Leading from the second chair means you don’t serve in the topmost seat but you are somewhere right behind the leader who serves at the topmost seat and has the opportunity to influence things. Leading from second chair would require you to;

  1. Think like your leader does
  2. Know your leader’s “why” and the organisation’s “why”
  3. Know what keeps your leader up all night (fears and concerns)
  4. Know how much latitude you have been empowered with to achieve the “why”
  5. Shore up weaknesses of your leaders without undercutting them
  6. Know your leader’s communication style
  7. Celebrate your leader publicly and sell to them but disagree privately

Move from Blame to Accountability: Managers who want to become authentic leaders know it is crucial to move from a blame culture to one of accountability. They understand;

  1. When things go wrong, they start searching for answers from their own desk.
  2. Accountability means becoming skilful at making contracts with their team members and holding them accountable for results
  3. Being willing to consider whether you lived up your own end of an agreement or expectation when things go wrong
  4. Judgment and criticism makes it difficult to see clearly as they tend to increase their level of anger and makes it difficult to learn from the situation
  5. They probably had a role in every situation

Be a Thought Partner rather than an Instructor: Authentic leaders know how to inspire others to a specific result without necessarily telling them what and how to do it. It’s based on the premise that human beings are naturally problem solvers and each individual has the ability to find the answers through proper guidance. To be able to do this, you must know;

  1. How to take the vision set by top management and translate it into work output
  2. How to “hold the space” when trying to walk someone through a problem and potential solution
  3. How to have an open heart and an open will when brainstorming with your team members
  4. How to suspend your voice of judgement of how people are

Use the Life Stories Approach: Authentic leadership involves self reflection, building self awareness and interpreting life events (trigger events). Life stories help you break from the traditional training to a much more coaching style of management. Each story is like a case study and helps you reinforce your values and morals which are essential component of your leadership.

It’s “OKAY” to Let Go of the Star-man Position: Most first time managers struggle with letting go of being the star of the team and tend to hang on to that for too long. By learning to promote your team members and sharing credit for the contribution of others’ strengthens, the trust levels within your team grows. Promoting others work doesn’t mean your downfall or reduction in visibility, but solidifies you as one who knows how to bring out the best in others.

Snippet from last concluded 360 feedback

These are the strong foundational principles I am building my leadership style on. I still haven’t cracked it 100% but I’m working at it on a day to day basis.

Big shoutout to some of the authentic leaders who have helped me on my leadership journey Evan Green-Lowe, Seni Sulyman, Jeremy Johnson , Seun Denton and @Akinwale Adesola

And to Konko Adeola Alokolaro who helped in putting this together.