5 things every new leader should know

This article is dedicated to professionals taking on their first leadership role. It will cover five things to watch out for as you embark on this journey, and how to navigate them when they do come.

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You are ambitious, smart and conscientious. There’s nothing better than receiving the news that you’ve been promoted - especially when this promotion means having a seat at the big table.

Being part of a leadership team has huge benefits and potential. You can have an equal say to everyone else when the decisions are made. You can make a bigger impact on the organisation, the business and the people, rather than just implement someone else’s decisions. This is a moment of joy and excitement.

But, becoming a leader is a career transition in itself and the way you navigate it will have long term ripple effects. You are more vulnerable because you don’t know the role fully and you don’t know how the new relationships are going to be.

According to a 2021 study, 66% of managers and executives suffer from burnout. 76% of them are overwhelmed. While you might start this role with a lot of excitement, how do you ensure you don’t become a victim of this statistic?

1. Promotions are stressful

We think of promotions as joyful. And they are. But they are also stressful transitions. The body doesn’t know the difference between the stress of earning more money or receiving a promotion, it just knows stress - and it reacts to it.

According to a large study by Holmes-Rahe, a major change in work responsibilities, combined with a change in work hours and conditions is as stressful as being fired, getting married or experiencing a major personal injury or illness. Of course, stress is a normal part of life and we shouldn’t avoid promotions just to protect ourselves from stress.

How can you navigate this transition with your health intact? 

Make more space for self-care, not less. A zen proverb says, “You should meditate for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy, then you should meditate for an hour”. For you, it may not be meditation, but sleep, exercise, mindfulness or something else. Additional stress on the body requires more recovery time. How can you make this as big a part of your new routine as the job responsibilities?

Protect your other pillars in life. Whether that’s family, hobbies, friends or something else, the things that have meaning to you outside of work need to be protected. Compromising on the other pillars that hold our life, can eventually breed resentment and exhaustion. Work, but remember to play, too.

2. Consider your vision

The book The First 90 Days says that the actions you take in the first three months will dictate whether you succeed or fail. Rather than start the role and “hope for the best”, consider what you’d like to create, and what you’d like to see different at the end of these three months.

Some useful questions related to your vision:

  • What do you want to see at the end of the first three months?
  • What do you need to learn in order to achieve that?
  • Which people influence your work?
  • How can you build effective relationships with them?
  • Who can support you in a mentoring capacity?

3. Imposter syndrome

If you’ve experienced imposter syndrome, chances are it will come up again as you navigate this transition because of the vulnerability that’s inherent in receiving a promotion.

During this time it’s useful to have a cheerleader (a family member, friend or mentor), but also to be your own biggest cheerleader. This means being particularly aware and mindful of how you talk to yourself. Catch yourself before you say something negative about yourself (self-deprecating humour included!) and make sure your self-talk contributes to your well-being.

4. Start as you intend to continue

It’s all too easy in the early stages of a leadership role to eagerly put ourselves forward for many projects and to overextend ourselves, so we can make an impact and demonstrate our contribution. We might even say “It’s OK, once this project is over, then I’ll reduce my hours.” But like in a relationship, being clear on your boundaries from the get-go is essential.

  • What don’t you want to happen in these three months?
  • What are the boundaries you intend to uphold?

5. Be more you

This stands to reason. Of course, I’m me, who else would I be? But all-too-often in a desire to do a good job, we might seek advice or follow in other people’s footsteps because we assume that’s what’s needed to succeed in the role. But remember, another person’s strengths (or expectations) may well be different - and even in opposition - with what you bring to the table.

People have an innate need to fit in and belong. It can be so tempting to twist and bend ourselves in ways we “think” others expect of us, in order to fit in and to be recognised. But in the process of following what other people say, we move away from our inner core, where all the peace and the resources sit. So if you ever find yourself feeling not peaceful, inquire if you’ve lost a part of yourself along the way - and bring it back in.

Becoming a leader can be equal parts exhilarating and terrifying.

It’s a strong cocktail of emotions that can throw us off balance. You want to do a great job and ensure you don’t become a statistic of burnout but an example of positive changes, looking after your people and helping the business grow. If you are navigating a career transition and recognising one of the five signs above in your own life, it’s important to approach this situation proactively.

As a career coach specialising in career transitions I can help you navigate this transition in a positive way so you can make the impact you’re there to make, while staying in integrity with your values. Send me a message and let’s put a plan together so you can make a success of the first 90 days - and beyond!

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Croydon CR2 & London SE1
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Written by Beatrice Zornek, Career Transitions Coach - BSc Psych, ICF ACC
Croydon CR2 & London SE1

Beatrice Zornek is a career coach specialising in career transitions. Career transitions (even the positive ones!) can take a toll on our wellbeing. Beatrice is passionate about helping her clients navigate these transitions successfully, without losing a part of themselves in the process. Find out more about Beatrice by clicking on her profile.

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