Stepping up to leadership: riding the bumps

Moving into a new senior leadership role is a really exciting transition; there will be fresh challenges and opportunities to extend your sphere of influence. You have accumulated expertise and experience as a middle manager and there will be plenty you can bring with you to build on. However, no matter how much experience, training or leadership development you have had, the transition to senior leadership can still be a bumpy one. Studies have shown that two years after executive transitions, between a quarter and a half of them are regarded as failures or disappointments[1]. There are several key issues that often arise.

Mind the Gap

As you move into the new role, you get to really see what is involved and faced with the actual challenge of senior leadership, things you thought you would know how to do start to look a lot more complicated! You start to understand the gaps between your current skill sets and those required in a senior leadership position, and there isn’t time for a training course.

At this stage, I see many new leaders holding on to their old behaviours and specialisms which feel comforting and confidence-building. But at the same time, they have to do their new job, learn new behaviours and prove themselves as a leader. They end up feeling exhausted by trying to do it all. Their frustration builds and they question their capability and career choices. 

What’s more, the very nature of leadership roles implies that the end goal is hazy and uncertain and that can feel very uncomfortable when you have been used to tangible objectives with measurable outcomes. Many new leaders can be surprised by how rudderless they feel without a boss giving them direction. Confidence and motivation can wane quite quickly.

No going back

These are quite normal phases of stepping up and new leaders may ebb and flow through these stages until they become fully aligned with the new role and their identity and motivation changes.

Coaching can be an excellent way of navigating your way through this process and successfully transitioning into a new senior leadership role. In fact, studies have shown that tailored executive coaching can double the likelihood of success[2]. For the last 15 years, I have been working with individuals from corporates, universities and high-tech businesses, helping them transition between technical and leadership roles, develop their career path, and achieve their true potential at work. Perhaps I could do the same for you.

Take a look at some case studies about how I have helped other senior leaders through their transitions