From a mid-career professional making the transition into leadership:
“My new job is going well. My biggest challenge is shifting my mindset from worker bee / order taker (which was yuck but familiar) to being a leader (which is interesting and a little scary). Specifically struggling this week with confidence in my recommendations and ownership. I find myself seeking/waiting for approval on low-risk items when I want to just go ahead and execute my plans.“
Counterintuitively, it is often the small things that stall new leaders. When it comes to making big, consequential decisions, it is natural to use a sounding board, check in with stakeholders and peers, and then take a calculated risk.
But when something doesn’t require that level of scrutiny, then new leaders sometimes feel a bit uncertain in trusting their judgement.
Here are some things to consider.
Just push through.
You’ve made a decision and feel a little shaky without getting confirmation or approval first? I hereby give you my approval for moving ahead. You are a conscientious decision maker and if things don’t go to plan, you can fall back on your intellectual horsepower and interpersonal savvy and figure out a new way.
So, acknowledge your inner shakiness (but don’t let it impress you) and forge ahead. It is okay to be uncomfortable. It will pass. The more you do uncomfortable things, the less they will phase you in the future.
Check in to see what flavor the hesitation is.
Are you concerned someone will judge you?
Leaders are always being judged. And at first it can feel harsh. Sometimes reminding yourself of the amazing work you’ve done to get where you are can help you feel confident in your leadership, regardless of others’ judgements. If being judged bothers you deeply, then get a leadership coach who can help you work through it. Even if you do something that delights 99% of people, 1% will think you should have done something different.
Are you uncertain that you’ve decided the best course of action?
The best course of action is a myth. It will actually be impossible to tell if it was the best course of action or not so let that notion go now. A better question to ask yourself is have you chosen a course of action that, given your knowledge of the situation, will likely result in the objective being achieved because you’ve given due consideration to (but not crazy optimization of) available resources, tradeoffs, and risk?
Are you worried about performing well for your boss?
You are smart to want to impress your boss. But on many issues, they are probably not even paying attention to what you are doing. If they’ve vested authority in you to do your job, then take it and run with it. Use your regular check-ins with them to demonstrate your thinking about things and to share what you’ve learned when decisions haven’t played out as you anticipated. Leadership is much more an art than a science.
Tap into the part of yourself that likes to be in charge and doesn’t give a f*$k what anyone thinks.
Everyone has this inside of them. Maybe they are a part of you that you’ve stuffed into a dark corner because you were once told harshly that you are “too much”, and you’ll need to get to know them again. Maybe that part is always ready to go but you reign them in because of a fear of judgement. Invite them to be in charge for a few minutes each day until you can access their fierceness at will.
Developing the mindset of a leader isn’t something that happens overnight so be patient with yourself. In fact, give yourself a gold star that you are reading this right now and pondering your next move. Some people in leadership positions never actually develop a leadership mindset. You’ve seen them – people with organizational authority but who micromanage, can’t stay aligned to strategy/objectives, or get their ego hurt easily.
My parting question to you is, what is the very next thing you will do in order to move forward?
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