Exposure and self-reflection…

In a previous article, I focused on star performers who come to terms with their new responsibilities as they ascend to positions of leadership. I also introduced the term, “leadership lens,” which refers to a metaphorical alignment of personal values and organizational priorities.

This article builds on the ‘leadership lens’ concept and tackles another prominent challenge that new leaders face: Adjusting and responding to the new team or workplace dynamics. This complicated, sensitive, and sometimes uncomfortable situation can either escalate or dissipate depending on how a leader responds.

Transition period & impact

When new leaders ascend from within a team or organization, there is almost always an undeniable shift in atmosphere and culture. From the new leader’s perspective, it’s almost like an old Twilight Zone episode, where the main character feels normal, yet others around them are reacting differently toward them. However, to others, there may be a brief period of uncertainty before operations get back to ‘business as usual.’ In other cases, new leadership creates a positive climate that sustains for years. In either case, it’s critical to understand that the new leader has the power to determine the severity and duration of the culture shift.

The fact is that the workplace dynamic has changed. The new leader’s former colleagues are now their subordinates. The relationships between the new leader and each subordinate will change as well. As discussed in my previous article, Empowering Ascending Leaders, the new leader is no longer a piece within the orchestra; they are now the maestro. Their role isn’t merely to perform their instrument effectively–it’s to support and guide the entire orchestra to success. Therefore, a different relationship must be forged to enhance operations and achieve positive results as a unit.

Key misconception

New leaders can reshape their relationships with their team members by realigning their priorities with their messaging, then reinforcing their communication with corresponding actions. This combination signals their values, conduct, and temperament to their team and/or organization.

Instinct vs. Rationale 

This may sound simple, but I can assure you: from my experience as an executive coach, determining one’s priorities, selecting the best language to communicate with various parties, and then acting accordingly to reinforce predetermined values are far easier said than done. Many new leaders may be tempted to act out of instinct, misdiagnose situations, or make decisions out of haste. Some are hesitant to reach out for help or advice as they fear it will reflect a lack of competence or confidence on their part. Indeed, some new leaders even place undue pressure on themselves, which research has shown only compounds the problems and makes the correct solution appear all the more murky. People think more clearly, creatively, and effectively when they are in a more relaxed and happy state of mind.

The choice is yours…

New leaders would be better served to take a breath and use the time they are afforded to reflect on a given situation, rather than relying on their immediate impulse. In fact, when new leaders act out of impulse, it can have residual, negative impacts. Others may believe that the new leader is impetuous, irrational, impatient, or neurotic. How do you think subordinates and team members will perform under leadership that has a track record of hasty decision making? Compare that with leadership that is methodical and demonstrates the ability to determine the most effective path, even in time-sensitive situations. Now ask yourself a second question: Which type of leader would you like to be?