Leading Without a Licence

Leadership often feels like being handed the keys to a high-performance car without ever taking a driving lesson. You’re expected to navigate complex roads, inspire your passengers, and keep everything running smoothly, all while figuring things out on the fly.
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Woman in car ripping an L plate which says Learner Leader

4 Ways to Move Off Your Leadership L Plates

Leadership often feels like being handed the keys to a high-performance car without ever taking a driving lesson. You’re expected to navigate complex roads, inspire your passengers, and keep everything running smoothly, all while figuring things out on the fly. If you’re feeling the pressure, you’re not alone. Many leaders find themselves in this position, having been promoted because of their technical prowess rather than their leadership skills. How do you move from being a great technical manager to an inspiring leader? 

Here’s how to get of your leadership L plates and drive your team to success.

1. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses: The Power of Self-Awareness

Don’t let things in your blind spot sneak up on you! Self-awareness is the essential for your growth as a leader. Leaders who lack self-awareness can overestimate their abilities, underestimate challenges, and make poor decisions. This not only affects their performance but also impacts the team’s morale and productivity. Being self-aware allows you to leverage your strengths while acknowledging and addressing your weaknesses.

How to Nurture It

It’s time to take a good look at yourself and check your blind spots! Ask your team for feedback and reflect on your actions and decisions. If you understand your strengths, you can leverage them for the benefit of your team and the organisation. Recognising areas where you need improvement allows you to be honest about your limitations, to grow and develop your skills while being a great example for your team!

2. You Don’t Need to Know Everything: The Importance of Asking for Help

No leader has all the answers. Believing you need to know everything can lead to burnout. Asking for help isn’t a weakness; it’s a strength that shows you understand your own skills and value your team’s expertise and perspectives. That’s why they are there! Refusing to ask for help means you miss out on fresh perspectives and insights that just may hold the solution you’re looking for! All of this leads poor decision-making and a lack of innovation.

How to Encourage It

Foster a culture where asking for help is normalised and encouraged. Lead by example and collaborate with your team to leverage their strengths and knowledge. This not only enhances problem-solving but also builds a supportive and inclusive environment. Remember, teamwork makes the dream work!

3. Invest in Yourself: Get Your Leadership Licence

You weren’t trained to be a leader; you were trained to be a great technical specialist. Leadership requires a different set of skills, and it’s crucial to invest in developing them. Neglecting personal development deprives your team of the guidance they need to succeed. Continuous learning keeps you adaptable and ready to face new challenges.

How to Cultivate It

Prioritise your development by seeking out leadership coaching and training, reach out to mentors, and stay open to new opportunities. Attend leadership workshops, read relevant books, and stay updated with industry changes, to help keep your finger on the pulse. By investing in yourself you not only enhance your skills but also set a positive example for your team and you can finally take off the L plates!

4. Become the Leader You Would Want to Follow

Reflect on your leadership style and ask yourself: Would you want to work for someone like you? If the answer is no, it’s time to make some changes. Effective leaders inspire and motivate their teams. If you embody the qualities you admire in others, you’ll create a more engaged, productive, and loyal team.

How to Embrace It

Find the leaders that inspire you and identify what it is about them that you admire. Is it their compassion? Maybe it is their championing of their team. Whatever it is use their example to inspire your own leadership style. Be authentic, be you and lead by example, demonstrating the behaviour and values you expect from your team. 

It isn’t easy to step up as a leader when you haven’t been prepared. But you don’t have to stay on your L plates for ever. Understanding that you don’t know everything and that as a first-time leader you’re very much like a learner driver will allow you to be open to learning and developing your skills. 

So, buckle up, invest in your leadership development, and drive your team to success!

Here are some learning resources that might be useful in your Leadership journey.

  1. High Performing Teams – Choose Your Own Adventure
  2. Perfectionism in an Imperfect World
  3. Tips for High Performing Teams

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