The Transition: Overcoming Fear and Moving into a Leadership Role

min read

When moving from a staff role into a management position, consider the best teams you've been part of and strive to model the behaviors of the leaders of those teams.

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Credit: Dmitrydesign / Shutterstock © 2019

It happened! Your hard work finally paid off. You received your promotion and are now officially a manager… a leader of your team, a leader in your organization.

As you transition into the new role, you work hard … harder than ever … and things don't seem to be going as well. Your supervisor and mentor has pulled you into her office and expressed concern that you may be overwhelmed. She encourages you to focus on the management side of your job now and leave the technical aspect to your team. But how? How can you let the technical side take a back seat? In your mind, the very reason you have the new job is because of your technical skills. This is uncharted territory: the very thing that got you to this point in your career—your technical knowledge and skills—is preventing you from doing the things that really matter now.

You have to make a choice. Do you embrace the new role with all the new challenges? Do you revert to your old ways and return to a pure technical role?

For many, this can be a very difficult decision. On one hand, you have an opportunity to lead and contribute at a different level. The people in positions of influence have faith and trust that you will be able to take up the challenge and contribute at this higher level. On the other hand, you have the comfort of what you know, the inertia that reassures you that you can do the technical work and do it well. Also, in the back of your mind, you wonder about what will happen if you fail at management. You will be at a disadvantage because you will have lost the cutting-edge technical knowledge and be less valuable. Each person must make the choice—new or old. And, there is no right answer, only the answer that is right for you.

For me, I chose to embrace the new challenge. I needed a plan to become the manager/leader that I desired to be. First step, determine what would make me a good manager/leader. Second step, incorporate leadership habits into my daily routine.

I've had the great fortune to work with some incredibly awesome managers. In reflecting on their management skills, I noticed recurring traits—integrity, diligence, and optimism. Without exception, my really good managers have personal and professional integrity—they are people of their word, that they strive for the betterment of the team and organization, and they work with intention to meet the goals they set. They also work with intent and purpose. They know what they want to accomplish, communicate the goal clearly, and work to reach the goal. They are also realistically optimistic—they believe in themselves and the team.

I noticed that these traits filtered to the team. Their teams became more effective and became positive components of the organization. Their teams worked toward organizational goals. Communication within the team was open, and, as a result, team members could quickly resolve technical differences of opinion to arrive at a best solution. The trust within the team was high, and the team members were confident that they could make decisions and inform the manager after the fact.

I also took a look at the "not so good" managers in my work life. They too shared some common traits. They did not have integrity. They did not keep their word. They would blame anyone other than themselves for any shortcomings or failings. They seemed to work with no real focus—most of the work was ad hoc and in crisis mode. They seemed to work in a constant state of mistrust and fear. These traits also filtered to their teams. The teams became more or less dysfunctional, with individual team members looking out for themselves. There was very little unity and certainly no feeling of being enabled to make decisions.

So, my New Year's goal is to incorporate the traits of the good managers into my daily routine. I will make a point to have daily standup meetings with the team. I will continue to give credit where credit is due. I will communicate my teams' initiatives to leadership. I am optimistic that with continued practice, my team and I will grow into a stronger, more cohesive team. I am excited to see what the New Year brings for me and my team. What are you doing to become a stronger manager and leader in your organization?

Susan Montgomery is DBA Manager at the University of Texas System.

© 2019 Susan Montgomery. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 International License.