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  • Dr. Julie Olsen

Identifying Budding New Leaders



After many years of seeing new leaders succeed as well as several that struggle, the need to appropriately select and train new leaders is evident. It is heartbreaking to see an excited well accomplished technical employee move into a leadership role only to be discouraged and unsuccessful.


The good news is that there are ways to help identify those who have a greater possibility of success. It is an organization’s responsibility to select the right people and then set them up to thrive in their new role.


After many years of working with emerging leaders, I’ve found that there are common traits and behaviors of those who succeed in their new role. Here are a few to consider:


1. They have mastered their current role and go above the responsibilities in their job description and contribute significantly to the organization’s success.

2. They are continuous learners and willing to accept feedback.

3. They help others on the team contributing to the overall success of the team.

4. They seek to learn more about the organization outside of their realm of responsibility and look for ways to collaborate with other departments.

5. They are natural informal leaders that have the respect of others on the team.

6. They are optimistic and their values align with the organization.


In my book, That Would Have Been Nice to Know. Advice From Those Who Made Successful Career Transitions, several leaders shared where they struggled in their new role. Their experiences provide insight for organizations as to some of the areas where new leaders may struggle and may benefit from additional support.

Challenges and advice from those who made successful career transitions:


Understanding new expectations. As a new leader, the expectations change from obtaining success from personal contributions to gaining results through others. Their previous skills served as a foundation for their new role however their success is based on their ability to change their mindset to one of supporting and leading others and applying their skills in a new way. Be clear with new leaders on the expectations and how their success will be measured.


Navigating the Leadership Processes. Most new leaders are strong contributors and may move into the role thinking everyone works like them. This can lead to grossly underestimating the time it takes to manage people. Many new leaders have never had to post job positions, interview, hire, train new employees, complete performance management reviews, manage team expectations, report measurements, etc. These aspects are often overlooked in the orientation process and can become challenges for new leaders. Review your new leader orientation process and ensure that the leadership processes are included.


Accountability. Several leaders share their challenges with accountability, especially if they worked with their employees and now, they are their leader. If clear personal and team accountabilities are in place, it makes it easier however it can still be a struggle. Support the new leaders by sharing accountability measurements as well as strategies for holding individuals accountable that align with the organization’s culture.


Developing New Skills. As with any new role, there are additional skills and training required. Many leaders go into the role and as it has been said before, “they don’t know what they don’t know.” In addition to the formal training and to help with the transition, it is helpful to provide a new leader with a mentor. The mentor can be someone who is experienced with the processes or skills the leader will need to develop or it can be someone who can help connect them with the resources available.


There are a number of new skills and mindsets a new leader will need to develop. To learn more about areas where leaders may struggle or to gain advice as a new leader on navigating your new role, contact me or check out my book available on Amazon, That Would Have Been Nice to Know. Advice from Those Who Have Made Successful Career Transitions.