Leadership development and the most important transition

December 27, 2017 by Wally Bock

Leadership development often gets everything right except the most important step. We use psychological tests and other tools to select men and women for leadership. We provide training. So far, so good. Then, too many leadership programs step back.

They seem to think that their job is done for the moment. It’s not. The transition from individual contributor to someone responsible for the performance of a group is the single most critical step in leadership development. It’s when the new leader needs the most help.

I started thinking about this again when I read a superb Success Labs article titled “5 Ways to Set Your Emerging Leaders Up for Success in 2018.” Here’s the money quote.

“Senior managers often assume successful individual contributors will innately understand how to be a leader and transition smoothly into a supervisory position. The reality is often much more complex because they are stepping into an entirely new job with different day-to-day duties, relationships, expectations and visibility within the organization.”

Leadership development for a new career

The truth is that moving from individual contributor to leader is more like changing careers than it is like changing jobs. It’s the hardest transition in business and it lasts for quite a while.

Years ago, I analyzed the transitions of individual contributors to a supervisor’s job. For most of them the transition lasted between eighteen and twenty-four months. New leaders are vulnerable during that time. They’re trying to learn new work habits and work out new relationships, often with people they’ve known for years.

Leadership development for vulnerable new leaders

Training is not enough. We must provide support and guidance for new leaders. Mentors should spring into action. Coaches should be engaged. Leadership development programs should be intentional about providing peer support for new leaders.

The transition can be a time of astounding growth, but it’s not likely to happen by accident. Your job is to protect your new leaders and help their transition experience be the best it can be.

Wally Bock is a coach, a writer and President of Three Star Leadership.

Posted in Leadership Development

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