Professional Development Tip: Stepping Into Leadership

By Jarred Heuer (Executive Director, Clarion County Economic Development Corporation)

New jobs can be intimidating. Whether you are promoted from within or join a new company, there is always some degree of “agita.” When it involves leadership, that anxiety can multiply and dampen what should be an exciting experience. Though, the early going with a new leadership role has pitfalls, it offers a clean slate and can be an opportunity to generate new momentum and capture its propulsion. Below are a few ideas that have served me well in past roles and continue to do so today.

Vary Your View
Google Maps is one of my favorite tools. Much of its worth is its ability to show both a satellite and street view. No doubt, a user has a much better understanding of a place after having seen both. When it comes to understanding the landscape of a new job, whether that is the job itself or the environment it functions within, seeing the satellite and street view is invaluable.

The satellite view shows you boundaries of your job and the role it plays in the big picture. It helps to contextualize what fits and where, whether that is your company, department, or your job itself. The street view offers you a different perspective, often acting as a motivator or inspirer, which can give better meaning and purpose to your job. Understanding the street view also grants you credibility from your community, since many are often appreciative when leaders take time to get granular.

Varying your view is a great use of time, particularly when done early, as it often serves as an investment for future collaboration.

Lean On Others
New leaders can have the misconception that they must re-invent the wheel to find success. There are certainly instances where shakeups and wakeups are needed, but it is key to understand that if those are instituted erroneously, damage can be exponential. Identifying diverse groups of established leaders, both inside and outside the scope of your role, and initiating mentorship-like relationships is a great step to take.

Actively leaning on others can assist in obtaining that street-level view, while also demonstrating to other leaders that you possess a healthy, assertive quality, which can serve you well in your new role. It shows you are a leader who can come alongside to problem solve without discrediting those who have come before you. This is particularly valuable in a small community.

Cast (and, if necessary, re-cast) Your Vision
A cast vision serves as guiderails for the work you do each day. Inherent with new roles is the uncertainty that the early going may not yield the results you might expect. Or the desired results may be difficult to identify, which can make the early going unsettling. Many jobs don’t have well -defined metrics that measure the productivity of a day, week, etc.

Take, for example, farming. Until a farmer knows the yield of their crop and sells it for a price, it is difficult for the farmer to measure the productivity of a single day. To achieve success, they must understand the vision the growing season and complete the work each day, whether that is plowing, rotating, planting, or harvesting. Here, the cast vision enables the farmer to understand the purpose of each task and what it means for achieving success. Too, it grants the farmer freedom to meet the demands and varying challenges of each day without veering off course.

When a vison is cast and established, it can serve as a litmus test for when new opportunities emerge, or when old practices are studied and considered. It prompts a new leader to ask, “does this task/idea/effort bring me closer to achieving my vision.” Though simple, this question is effective in increasing your capacity, and can help prevent burnout, cynicism, and jadedness.

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) September 2021 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

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