The journey from being an individual contributor to becoming a leader within an organization can be a challenging—even daunting—experience. Excelling in a previous role does not necessarily guarantee success in a leadership position because managing people and projects requires an entirely new skill set. For HR professionals, L&D experts, and existing leaders, it is crucial to provide leadership support and guidance to those emerging leaders to ensure a smooth transition and long-term success.
So how do you start?
Identifying the necessary skills for new leaders
The first step in supporting emerging leaders is identifying the skills they need to acquire or develop. While it seems that the skills and work ethic that make someone a good employee would translate into becoming a good leader, this is not always the case. Critical skills new leaders should focus on include:
Understanding, managing, and responding to one's and others' emotions is crucial for effective leadership. This is a key component to becoming a leader and includes self-awareness, self-management skills, and understanding and responding appropriately to others' emotions.
To assess emotional intelligence, observe how emerging leaders handle stress, conflict, and unexpected challenges. Are they able to stay composed and make sound decisions? Do they empathize and communicate effectively with others in emotionally charged situations?
Additionally, consider implementing emotional intelligence assessments or 360-degree feedback surveys. Not only will these tools provide insights into the leader's emotional intelligence, but they will also highlight areas that may benefit from further development.
Clear and concise communication is essential for emerging leaders to convey their vision, expectations, and feedback. Leaders should also be able to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent people from understanding their message.
To evaluate a leader's communication skills, observe how they articulate their ideas and instructions. Are their messages clear, concise, and easily understood? Do they tailor their communication style to their audience? How do they handle misunderstandings or miscommunications?
Also, pay attention to their listening skills: Do they truly understand and respond to the needs and concerns of their team members? Anonymous team feedback or structured communication assessments can also provide valuable insights.
Effective leaders know how to delegate tasks so their teams work efficiently and achieve their goals. They also recognize when handling a job or project is appropriate to ensure it is completed correctly and on time.
To assess a leader's delegation skills, observe how they allocate tasks within the team. Are they assigning tasks based on individuals' skills and capabilities? Do they maintain overall control while providing their team members with enough autonomy to complete their tasks? Are they stepping in when necessary without micromanaging?
A well-delegated team will feel empowered and will be able to meet objectives in a timely and efficient manner.
Leaders must be accountable for their actions and decisions so their followers can trust them. They also need to prepare to accept responsibility for the mistakes and failures of their team, even when those mistakes aren't their fault.
To gauge a leader's accountability, observe how they handle successes and failures. Do they give credit where it's due and take responsibility for shortcomings? Do they learn from their mistakes and make necessary adjustments? How do they respond when their team faces challenges or setbacks?
Another valuable assessment method is to gather feedback from team members: do they feel their leader is accountable and trustworthy?
Leaders must be able to make informed and timely decisions that align with the organization's objectives. Effective leaders understand their strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. They also recognize when handling a task or project is appropriate to ensure it is completed correctly and on time.
To assess a leader's decision-making skills, observe how they approach problem-solving scenarios. Do they gather and consider relevant information before making a decision? Are they decisive yet flexible when circumstances change? Do they consider the potential impacts on the team and the organization's objectives?
It can also be beneficial to reflect on past decisions: were they effective? What was the process and outcome?
Leaders should equip themselves to address and resolve conflicts within their teams to maintain a healthy work environment. Leaders must also be able to handle difficult situations with grace and poise. Great leaders are creative thinkers who can develop innovative solutions to benefit their team and organization. Leaders should be able to communicate clearly and effectively, whether speaking in front of a large audience or one person.
To measure a leader's conflict resolution skills, monitor how they handle disputes or disagreements within the team. Do they address issues directly and fairly? Do they actively listen to all parties involved and seek to understand different perspectives? Are they able to maintain their composure and demonstrate empathy in difficult situations? How creative are they in finding mutually beneficial solutions?
Gathering feedback from team members about their experiences can also provide invaluable insights.
Facilitating becoming a leader through training and mentorship
Once the necessary skills have been identified, HR professionals and existing leaders can support new leaders by providing them with the resources and opportunities to develop these skills.
Leadership training programs
Most leadership skills can be taught, and having a structure around developing those skills will help guarantee consistent training and application. A comprehensive leadership program can offer training sessions in different formats, such as classroom training, webinars, or online courses. In-person training is ideal for leaders new to the organization who need to absorb its culture and values, for example, while virtual training options allow employees to access information at their convenience and learn at their own pace.
Pair emerging leaders with experienced mentors who can provide guidance, share insights, and help them navigate leadership challenges. Encourage coaching sessions and informal meetings where the leader can share their experiences and insights. Mentorship not only offers an added feeling of leadership support and security, but it can also help set expectations and speed up the transition process.
A good mentor in leadership development is someone who possesses a wealth of leadership experience and is adept at imparting this knowledge to others. They understand the complexities of leadership roles and can provide practical advice to navigate these challenges. They model excellent leadership behaviors, demonstrating how to inspire, motivate, and influence others.
A good mentor is patient, recognizing that developing leadership skills is a journey and supporting their mentee through the highs and lows. They also foster a safe environment for the mentee to experiment, make mistakes, and learn.
Encourage new leaders to participate in networking events and connect with other professionals to expand their knowledge and learn from others' experiences. Networking can be a valuable way for emerging leaders to learn from their peers and connect with other professionals in the industry. This is especially important if your organization has a formal mentorship program, as new leaders may need additional support when they start their roles.
A mentor can help emerging leaders navigate their first year and provide guidance in areas where they may lack experience. Mentors can also offer advice on handling difficult situations or addressing common challenges during onboarding.
Helping emerging leaders let go of their old role and embrace the new one
A significant challenge for emerging leaders is letting go of their previous responsibilities and fully embracing their new roles.
23% of top performers in terms of productivity fall short in six key leadership-oriented skills. This means that there's a significant chance that, out of every four individuals promoted to a leadership role based on their exceptional productivity, one of them might not live up to the expectations of being an effective leader.
To help them with this transition, consider the following strategies:
- Role-Playing Scenarios: This can be an effective way to clarify expectations. Have the new leader participate in role-playing exercises that simulate typical leadership situations, such as resolving conflicts, delegating tasks, or making decisions under pressure. This allows them to experience leadership challenges in a safe and controlled environment.
- Shadowing Sessions: Pair the new leader with a seasoned leader in a similar role. This gives them a first-hand view of the responsibilities and expectations of their new position.
- Delegation Practice: Encourage the new leader to delegate some of their former tasks to their team members. This helps them let go of their previous role and start focusing on leadership tasks. A task analysis exercise that helps them identify tasks to assign and choose who in their team is best suited to complete them can complement this.
- Success Journal: Ask the new leader to keep a success journal to record their achievements in their new role. Review this journal together regularly and celebrate the milestones they've reached. This can boost their confidence and help them see their progress.
New leaders often feel they have to control everything. Still, part of being a leader is trusting your team and letting them take the initiative.
Leveraging Blue Ocean Brain to support emerging leaders
Blue Ocean Brain provides a comprehensive suite of tools and resources to help HR professionals, L&D experts, and existing leaders support emerging leaders in their transition. With a wide range of content, including microlearning modules, articles, and expert coaching, Blue Ocean Brain can help emerging leaders develop the essential skills they need to succeed.
A highly effective method to bolster this skill set involves seizing learning opportunities that foster active listening, empathy, and proficient communication. Curious about how Blue Ocean Brain can assist in this journey? Click here to arrange a consultation with one of our learning specialists.