Taking on a new leadership role is always challenging. New responsibilities. New team members. And new roles to play. But today, as organizations are facing the Great Resignation, remote and hybrid work environments, and overall economic uncertainty, the challenges facing a new leader are even greater.
While the realities facing new leaders are unprecedently novel, challenging, and anxiety-provoking, the meager amount of support and training that has historically been provided to new leaders remains sadly unchanged. According to Development Dimensions Inc.’s Global Leadership Forecast, 83% of organizations say it’s important to develop leaders, but only 5% have fully implemented plans to do so. Organizations may not be intentionally setting new leaders up to fail, but they likely aren’t setting them up for success either.
Another startling fact, 50% to 70% of new leaders fail. And 40% of these new leaders, fail within the first 18 months. Companies usually look to their top-performing employees to promote and fill leadership roles within the organization. So why are these top-performing team members so often underperforming in a leadership role? The answer comes back to support and training.
Promoting a New Leader
In our current employment market, promotions are happening without much forewarning. The new leadership position is often in response to someone leaving the organization unexpectedly, providing no opportunity for on-the-job training or a handing off of the reigns. No space to share the ins and outs of the role and the strengths and weaknesses of the team. This type of training is by far the best, but when that isn’t an option, there are ways to ensure that the new leader has the basic leadership skills they need to be effective in any situation.
Provide a Mentor
I have written about it before, but the power of having a mentor can not be underestimated. When the going gets tough for a new leader, a voice of reason and experience can help. When they are struggling with making a choice, an unbiased mentor might provide just the insight they need. It is helpful if the mentor has performed a similar duty within the organization, but not necessary. According to Forbes, a good mentor is someone who is motivated and energized, cares about developing others, and is willing to commit their time.
Establish Regular Communication
From the start make it clear that you are there to support the new leader. Establish meetings at regular intervals to work through challenges, and provide feedback. There will be setbacks as your team members try to transition from performer to conductor. Some of the biggest challenges are often in the areas of delegation, communication, and accountability. Expect struggles. Timely feedback and encouragement can go a long way in showing the new leader that you care about their success.
Provide Leadership Development Opportunities
Leadership is hard. But it doesn’t have to be hard to understand. The intricacies and learning needed for one particular role may be specific to only one trainee. But many leadership development opportunities or courses can address the overarching truths to lead people successfully. This can be done through outside leadership development courses or can be built into mentoring or follow-up meetings. No matter how it is delivered, helping your team members learn and put into practice the essential for leadership will build a firm foundation.
The habits, practices, and mindset you help new leaders adopt early in their leadership tenure will set the trajectory for the rest of their leadership career. What they learn now will impact how they lead throughout their leadership journey.