Stepping up: New business leaders should remember these eight things

Stephen Archer
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Sam Allardyce, Theresa May and Ericsson's Jan Frykhammar at Ericsson have all taken on top jobs in recent weeks, but how can they make sure they stay there? (Source: Getty)

The rate of change in leadership we are currently seeing in the worlds of politics, business and sport is breathtaking.

Theresa May, Sam Allardyce and Jan Frykhammar at Ericsson have all taken on top jobs in recent weeks, but how can they make sure they’re not left standing in this game of musical chairs?

Anyone taking on a leadership role has vast expectations placed upon them and very often the unforgiving scrutiny of the public gaze. So how can new leaders ensure their success is sustainable after the honeymoon ends? Here are some tips for first time leaders.

Act like you just took over

Be confident, self-assured, respectful and act like a leader from day one. Keep your head up and your shoulders back. Speak to people as you want to be spoken to, and remember to listen to any grievances aired by staff.

The first few weeks of your tenure will set the company’s pace, and it is the period when staff and partners will develop their opinions of you, so you should work hard to earn their trust.

Trust staff with the truth

Authentic leaders don’t insist on doing everything themselves. Like Richard Branson, they surround themselves with talented individuals and look to them to provide the answers. The leader’s role is to supply the vision and set the goals for realising it, but they have to trust people to make it happen.

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This means telling employees the truth about how you see the business. If it needs changing, involve them in designing the new strategy from the beginning. This early teamwork will form a strong and united foundation to build on during your leadership.

Set audacious goals

Good leaders set goals that are bold and audacious. They may take many years to achieve, but they need to be specific enough that everyone in the organisation understands them and can work on specific tasks towards achieving them.

Give creative space, but insist on decisions

Give people time to innovate and come up with different ways of doing things, as well as solutions for problems. This could be through constructive brainstorming sessions or encouraging other methods of creativity. Set a time limit and ensure everyone knows the deadline for decisions.

Don’t rescue people from events

Let people work things out for themselves and make their own mistakes – it’s the only way they can really learn.

Read more: The best ways to be a poor leader

Stamp out them and us

Edelman’s 2016 Trust Barometer suggests that, within many organisations, there is still a them-and-us type of culture with employees feeling very distant from senior management.

Try to overcome this by driving the message that we’re all in this together. Including them in shaping strategy will improve employee engagement, and make them believe they are a valued part of your organisation.

Be decisive

Nobody likes a ditherer, and there is no worse crime for a leader than being indecisive. It undermines confidence which may take a long time to rebuild and can lead to staff disengagement. A leader is there to lead. Being able to make decisions is a core skill of any successful leader.

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Likewise, you aren’t there to offer same old solutions. Great leaders take risks, are radical in their thinking, and will act quickly to get their ideas up and running.

Be passionate and proud

If you don’t believe, how can you expect anyone else to? Lead by example and show employees that you are passionate, enthusiastic and proud to be leading the company.

They will buy into your vision if they can see you are genuinely excited about it and understand where the company is heading.

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