Congrats, You Got Your First Leadership Role. Now Parlay It Into Something Better

Today’s business world can seem confusing and treacherous to the fresh-faced MBA crowd. While highly educated, new leaders sometimes lack the experience to successfully navigate the organizational waters when given greater responsibilities.

In the hopes of making that journey a little easier, I offer an executive checklist of sorts for the aspiring leader:

Start with a vision
Regardless of the task or goal, your responsibility as a leader is to dream the dream and articulate it in the most compelling way possible if you want people to follow you. Clearly explain your ideas for attacking the effort at hand.

Build trust
You won’t realize how important trust is in until you run into your first roadblock. Trust provides strength against adversity. Don’t play mind games with your team: Be sure to address problems head-on and make no excuses if things happen to go south—they sometimes do. If you build trust, your team members won’t desert you when you need them the most.

Establish a plan
It’s easy to fail if your plan of attack lacks clarity and detail, or exists only in your head. A good leader builds a detailed plan and then shares it with her people. Remember to ensure that everyone understands the plan and their role in it. Be patient on that score.

Engage staff
Leaders cannot be successful without the buy-in and commitment of their people. It’s the flip side of trust. So be deliberate in your efforts to engage your staff. This is accomplished in a variety of ways.

Here are a few ideas to consider: Leverage social media, including Twitter and Facebook, to excite staff members; design pop-up messages on company e-mail sites that contain important news about happenings within the department or business unit; develop and publish a blog on the organization’s intranet that serve to raise awareness and educate in-house staff on new initiatives; and, of course, engage on a personal level by talking with co-workers about the work at hand.

Organize work as projects
Companies often test young executives by giving them oversight of a major initiative. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed: Break big, monolithic efforts into smaller parts, or projects, which are more easily managed and can be better positioned for success.

Reimagine how to manage
Those new to leadership typically fall back on the tried and true—some derivative of the “command and control” management structure. But blurring the reporting lines a bit may lead to better results. Establishing a more cooperative leadership model will give team members more freedom, which will translate into better problem solving and more creative, superior products.

Always remember: There are no magic formulas or cookbooks to follow when developing your leadership “chops.” That simply takes time and practice. But using these ideas as a foundation will never get you into trouble and, if followed, may just help you to become recognized as a leader who can dependably set direction and manage change.