Four strategies for a seamless transition into first-time leadership

Stepping into a leadership role can be daunting. Sarah Jones gives first-time leaders some advice.

Often when you progress up the career ladder, each step up comes with additional leadership responsibilities. When you first find yourself in a role directing others it can be a challenging prospect, especially if the promotion means you are now leading the team you were once a part of.

It is important to make the best impression you can on your new team, so by following these strategies you can start as you mean to go on and showcase exactly why you have been promoted into your role. In fact, many of the skills you have already built up throughout your career will be incredibly useful for leadership. 

Prioritise listening

In a new found leadership role, it is common for the leader to quickly begin issuing their direct instructions as they think this is all leadership entails or this is what their leaders may have done in the past. However, instructing others is only a part of being a leader; in fact, it’s only quite a small part!

New leaders may actually find it the most beneficial to prioritise listening to their team, especially in the initial few weeks and the onboarding process. As the team is finding their feet with you as their leader, they may have concerns about any changes that may be ahead, so as the leader you should make time to actively listen and address these concerns.

If you can clearly show your new team how passionate you are about the success of the business, the team and each individual, it will serve as a great motivator and will create a culture of mutual respect.

Team members may bring up really effective new ideas or solutions that you might never have thought of. From the offset, set the precedence that you are a leader that cares about listening to your team, uses their feedback and priotises making time for employees to drop in and voice any concerns they have. 

Showcase your passion

Your team may have some reservations about your leadership, and this is natural through turbulent times and if you are a first time leader. If you are new to the business or they have never encountered you before, they may be unsure that your values and goals align well with theirs.

Rather than spending time hung up on these opinions and letting this cloud your judgement, showcase your skills and in particular, your passion, from the beginning. If you can clearly show your new team how passionate you are about the success of the business, the team and each individual, it will serve as a great motivator and will create a culture of mutual respect.

Shared values unite teams around a common goal so if you can demonstrate that you share the same values of your team, then they will warm to you. Always relate your instructions to how this brings you closer to your common goals. Passion is key to authentic leadership. 

Practise delegation

With leadership, it can be easy to slip into a habit of wanting to retain control over all tasks, particularly those in your previous role, out of fear of them not going to plan or your leadership being on the line, however your team are your biggest asset and a source of fantastic ideas that shouldn’t be neglected.


After you move into your new role, make sure you have fully handed over all tasks from your previous role so you can focus on your new duties. It can be hard to let go if this was a role you were in for a long period but you need to be focus entirely on the next phase.

Similarly, from the offset try delegating tasks to others as this way you will quickly begin to see which members of your team possess which skills so you can build on these throughout your tenure and you can support them in building skills in other areas.

Practising delegating tasks to your team helps to free up your time for other areas of your role and investing in your skills.

Clear and honest communication

Communication skills are some of the most important for a new leader to focus on. You may quickly realise that the things you think have been clearly communicated, have not been received as well as you hoped by others.

Being able to adapt your communication style is critical to effective leadership; some people may prefer a brief instruction that they can be creative with and interpret but others may prefer step-by-step instructions to follow. Practise flexing your leadership and communication style so you can accommodate all options.  

Similarly, when building trust with your new team you need to be honest and transparent from the offset. It is inevitable that as a leader you will need to deliver bad or unsettling news at some point during your career.

If you set a precedence of honesty and transparency in your leadership style, it is much more likely they will be accepting of this news. Similarly, if the business is facing challenges, your team are more likely to trust your guidance if you have always been honest and clear in your communication and they can see your thought-processes. 

The key to first-time leadership is setting a great precedence from the off. Make sure you are quickly seen as someone who listens to their team and values their feedback in the decision making process.

Similarly if you showcase your values, your passion and your communication skills, your team will quickly gel and you can get on with finding the most effective solutions. Utilising these skills will help you to reap the benefits of effective leadership for yourself and your team. 


About the author

Sarah Jones is a published author, leading speaker, and accredited leadership, talent development and team productivity coach. 



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