How to Successfully Transition as a New Leader

How to Successfully Transition as a New Leader
Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

The Challenge of Leadership
New team leaders are thrust into a position where, for the first time, they become accountable for what their team accomplishes. When the team wins, they win. But when the team loses, the buck stops at their door. It is not easy to transition as a new leader.

High performing leaders know there’s no one else to blame. And new leaders quickly learn that they need to behave differently from how they excelled as an individual contributor. The challenge to do it right comes with the new title. The challenge is to learn quickly how to successfully transition as a new leader.

The Opportunity
You don’t want to mess this up. You were selected as a leader because your superiors believed in your potential to lead. And, let’s face it, this promotion is a great opportunity to grow and learn what you’re made of. It is your chance to transition into a leader of merit and create a high performing team.

The Successful Transition
Of course, your journey from contributor to leader will take place in the context of your specific work environment, your team’s charter, and your personal style. Data from our leadership simulation assessment reveals five common aspects of successful leadership transitions.

  1. Focus on the Team’s Success Not Your Success
    Unsuccessful new managers often let their newfound “power” obscure what really matters. Ajay Banga, former Mastercard CEO, recommends you think of yourself as a steward “of the system in a ship sailing through the sea. You have to make sure that the boat doesn’t sink while you’re there…and you make the boat work better.”

    To be a successful team leader, take a situational approach to leadership, define and serve the team’s purpose, maximize the team’s success, engage the team in realizing the team’s shared vision, and measure the team’s success.

  2. Listen First, Act Second
    Don’t succumb to the temptation to enact change until you understand the situation you have inherited. Unless urgent action is required, take about thirty days to meet with your team and key stakeholders to listen to their views on what they hope will change, what they hope will stay the same, and what you need to know.

    Then validate the summary of what you have learned with facts and business analytics. Only then should you define the few moves that will have the greatest impact with your team.

  3. Develop Trusting Relationships with Individual Team Members
    Spend one-on-one time with your team members to learn what they care about, what they like to do, and what motivates them. Showing you care is the beginning of a strong and trusting relationship as a leader. The second critical part is your open, honest, consistent communication.

    Your end goal? Establish real and lasting trust and credibility.

  4. Invest in First Impressions
    Don’t neglect the power of first impressions. Whether it’s your first meeting with the team as a whole or a presentation in front of executives, put in the time and effort to put your best foot forward. Yes, you are juggling many balls in the air at once as a people leader, but some are more important in the long run than others.

  5. Maintain a Balance
    You quickly learn you can’t do it all. To protect your overall well-being, you have to strategically prioritize what matters most. Establish boundaries around your time, manage the talent on your team with clear and enforceable expectations, and hold yourself and team members accountable for doing what you say you will do.

The Bottom Line
Transitioning to manager is rarely easy.  Step into your new leadership role by being thoughtful about what you say and what you do. Focus on the success of the team, listen before you act, be caring and trustworthy, nail the “firsts,” and use your time wisely.

To learn more about how to successfully transition as a new leader, download 6 Top Traps That Can Sabotage Success as a Leader

Evaluate your Performance


Get key strategy, culture, and talent tools from industry experts that work


Health Checks

Assess how you stack up against leading organizations in areas matter most



Download published articles from experts to stay ahead of the competition



Review proven research-backed approaches to get aligned



Stay up to do date on the latest best practices that drive higher performance


Client Case Studies

Explore real world results for clients like you striving to create higher performance