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Four Strategies to Help New Managers Thrive in a Leadership Role

Transitioning into a management role is exciting but challenging for many reasons.

  • The skillset one needs to succeed as a manager is very different from the skillset one needs to succeed as an individual contributor. In fact, in most cases to succeed as a manager and as a leader, the new manager has to do the complete opposite of what he/she did to succeed as an individual contributor.

  • Transitioning from a peer to a leader (supervisor) is a big shift new leaders have to navigate. The transition leaves the new leader without thought partners who can help him/her think through the challenges they face in this new role.

  • Although there are many leadership courses, books, and seminars, most are not specifically designed for first-time leaders with a step-by-step guide on how to succeed in the new role and do not address the unique challenges of this group.

What can new managers do to thrive in a leadership role?

Success as a leader requires a shift in mindset and new skills in self-leadership, in leading and inspiring teams, and in managing resources and delivering results.

Here are four strategies to help new managers thrive as a leader

1. Embrace Leading People

New managers should realize that what got them into a management role will not help them succeed in a management role. Individual contributors and functional managers are used to managing work, and focusing on effectiveness and efficiency. This new role as a manager, however, will require them to work with their team and to lead them. This role is going to require them to use new skills, it has new rules for success, and new ways of doing and thinking in order to succeed.

Leadership is a different game, and the sooner new managers understand that they manage resources and lead people, the smoother the transition into the role and quicker the success in that role. When management and leadership are mis-applied, i.e. if the new manager tries to manage people instead of leading them, that will lead to failure.


  • Understand their leadership and communication styles (via assessment);

  • Develop a leadership philosophy, and

  • Develop a game plan to effectively communicate with each of their team members.

2. Shift from Doing to Enabling

New managers have to shift from Doing to Enabling their team to do/perform at their best. When new managers embrace that they are in a new game. When they embrace the fact that as a leader, they are now the coach now and do not have to go to the field to play, their team members will be empowered to get the job done. New managers should learn to delegate effectively to enable their team to perform at their best.

New managers should strive to

  • Be crystal clear about the goals of the project they are pursuing - define “success of the project” - define what success looks like and

  • Communicate effectively to ensure all members of their team understand what success looks like, what the goals and KPIs are and how these will be tracked.

Many managers assume that their team members know the goal of the project and what success looks like. New managers should err on the side of clarity. When the team knows the goal, the “how” can easily be left to each of them to be creative with - which really empowers the team members and the team may even surprise the manager with creative ways of getting to the goal. Clarity will help new managers trust more and will prevent them from micromanaging their team members.

3. Shift from Giving a Fish to Allowing Team Members to Fish

One of the top problems new-managers face is that as a manager they now feel that they are fire fighting the entire day, and they find themselves solving one problem after another. The reason this happens is because most managers think their role is to solve these problems, and may sometimes feel insecure about what their team will think if they coached their team instead of solving the problem. However, how managers handle situations like this will literally make or break their success as a manager.

New managers should realize that when they allow their team members to solve problems, it helps the manager as well as the direct reports. When managers coach their direct reports instead of solving their problems, (1) employees learn and are empowered to solve problems. (2) employees will no longer go to their manager for similar problems - and will be empowered to come up with solutions.

This is a win win solution, and this will free up the manager's time.

Recommendation - Learn how to coach your team, and resist the temptation to solve problems on your own. Learn the GROW coaching model.

4. Build a network of thought partners

Transitioning from a peer to a leader (supervisor) is a big shift new leaders have to navigate. While striving to be the best leader to direct reports is great, what is equally important and very critical to a leader's success is managing up and across.

New managers should make it a point to build solid relationships with their peers, their bosses, and other leaders in the industry. Not only will this network be a great opportunity for managers to share best practices with but will also be an opportunity to build sponsors.

If you are a new manager and want to learn the skills needed to help you succeed as a leader with a group of other leaders, check out our Embark Leadership Development Program, a cohort based course specifically designed for new and middle managers.


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