How to Prepare for Your First Leadership Role: 5 Practical Steps

How to Prepare for Your First Leadership Role: 5 Practical Steps

How to Prepare for Your First Leadership Role: 5 Practical Steps

Whether you’re applying for a leadership role or you’re already in one, becoming an incredible boss takes time. But don’t be afraid to take on this new challenge. With enough practice, help, and mental awareness, you can develop a personal management style that wows your team.

5 Steps to Take Before Accepting a Leadership Role

It can be intimidating to take on your first leadership role. But, with the right attitude, you can make a successful transition. Here are 5 steps to take before accepting a leadership role.

Step 1: Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Leaders should have a level of self-awareness (it comes in handy in the next section!). They should know their strengths, weaknesses, and how to compensate for them. Leaders absolutely need to take criticism and balance their attention between more than one department.

If you’re moving up within an organization you’re a part of, consider getting to know your organization really well. That way, you can see where you may struggle when you lead.

Leading a team also means appreciating your employees. Employee recognition is a way to show value as a leader, but you may not be good at expressing praise when you start. If that’s the case, collaborate with someone on your team who can teach you this important skill.

Step 2: Evaluate Why You Want a Leadership Role 

Some people get into a leadership role because they feel it’s the appropriate next step, but you shouldn’t lead people unless you want to. Remember that you’re leading real people in an organization, and your decisions will impact how these people interact with you and their work.

Leadership doesn’t mean you get to tell people what to do all day. It means letting other people take the credit, putting your ego aside for the collective gain, and mentoring empathetically.

Take a hard look at yourself and ask if you’re only in this for the money or accolades. If you are, then you’re setting yourself up to be a bad leader. The world doesn’t need another boss or bully. Sounds harsh, but it’s better to know you’re not fit for the role now before you’re actually in it.

Step 3: Understand Your Employer’s Expectations

Misaligned expectations can set you up for failure, so don’t assume when you don’t have to. Your managers, coworkers, and boss all expect you to work and act a certain way, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You just have to be content with how they expect you to run the show.

That doesn’t mean you can’t throw in your own flair. The right organization will let you lead in a matter you see fit, so long as it benefits the organization and your team’s overall well-being. 

If you want to get on the same page as your organization, ask for an honest evaluation. Ask your boss or manager what they think of your strengths and areas where you might have blind spots. If you haven’t worked with these people before, simply ask what they expect.

Step 4: Get to Know Your Fears and Anxiety

As you take the steps to prepare for a leadership role, you may be overcome by a feeling of fear or anxiety. This is normal and doesn’t indicate that you’re not ready to take the job. Instead, look at it as a good thing. You’re probably afraid you’ll make a mistake because you’re unprepared.

That shows that you take this role seriously, but that shouldn’t stop you from applying. No one is 100% prepared to lead people, and it’s a skill that can’t be perfected without a lot of practice.

We don’t have the luxury of dipping our toes into management, and you may not be allowed to train for months before taking on the role full-time. The best way to get over your fears is to face them but to do that; you need to know what you’re nervous about and how to handle anxiety.

Step 5: Plan Your Own Progress and Development

As stated, many managers are thrown into the deep end before they know how to swim, so you may be responsible for your own progress and development. You may have to work in your previous position (if you were promoted internally) or quickly get to know the organization.

If possible, go to leadership training before applying for that job or promotion. If not, speak to HR or someone else in your support system to find out what resources are available to you. 

If you’re completely on your own, search for leadership resources online. These include blog posts, like “10 Skills You Need to Lead an IT Team,” books, like “The Making of a Manager” by Julie Zhuo, or podcasts, like “Coaching for Leaders.” Soak up as much knowledge as you can.