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Thoughts for First Time Leaders

Updated: Feb 26

Congratulations, you've just landed your first leadership role in an organization. It can be an exciting and challenging time. It also comes with a steep learning curve. As a first-time leader, it's important to remember that you're not expected to know everything, and it's okay to ask for help. Common Mistakes to Avoid First-time leaders often make a number of mistakes as they navigate their new role.

Here are some of the most common mistakes that I have observed of first-time leaders:

1. Micromanaging: One of the biggest mistakes that first-time leaders make is micromanaging their team. This can lead to team members feeling frustrated and undervalued. Micromanaging also sends a negative message to your team member: I don’t trust you to do your job.

2. Making Decisions without Engaging the Team: Making decisions without consulting the team can lead to a lack of buy-in. Always remember your team likely has more front-line knowledge than you have. They can save you from making costly mistakes if you simply engage them when making decisions.

3. Focusing on Tasks and not on People: First-time leaders tend to focus too much on completing tasks and not enough on building relationships with team members. This can really harm the motivation among team members. It also minimizes critical thinking if you’re simply passing out “to do lists” each day.

4. Being too Rigid: First-time leaders may feel the need to adhere strictly to rules and procedures, but this can prevent them from being adaptable and flexible when the situation calls for it.

5. Failing to Seek Feedback: First-time leaders may be hesitant to seek feedback from their team, but this can prevent them from improving and growing as a leader. Every leader should gather feedback from the team (anonymously is best) asking what is going well and what should be improved. Without feedback, leaders rarely see their blind-side and continue to repeat bad behaviors.

Overall, the key to avoiding these mistakes is to be self-aware and to constantly seek to learn and grow as a leader. It's important to be open to feedback, to communicate effectively with team members, and to prioritize building relationships and developing team members' skills.

Here are 8 Rules to help you navigate your new role successfully.

1. Listen to Your team: One of the best ways to build a meaningful relationship with your new team is to listen to them. Encourage feedback and suggestions. Take them into consideration when making decisions. Make sure everyone feels heard and valued.

2. Model Desired Behavior: As a leader, you set the tone for your team. Make sure your actions align with your words. If you want your team to work hard and be productive, you need to model that behavior yourself.

3. Invest in Their Development: As a leader, your job is to help your team grow and develop. Provide opportunities for them to learn new skills and take on new challenges. Encourage them to take ownership of their work and give them the support they need to succeed. One of my favorite quotes in this is by Ralph Nader, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”

4. Build Meaningful Relationships: Building strong relationships with your team members can help you better understand their strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to delegate tasks more effectively and create a more cohesive team.

5. Communicate Frequently: Communication is key to any successful team. Make sure you're communicating clearly and regularly with your team. Keep everyone informed about changes or updates that could affect their work.

6. Learn from Your Mistakes: As a first-time leader, you're bound to make mistakes. Don't beat yourself up over them. Instead, use them as an opportunity to learn and grow. Reflect on what went wrong and how you can improve in the future. Leadership is not about being perfect, it's about being honest and humble and creating an environment where people feel supported and encouraged to do their best.

7. Be Adaptable: Things don't always go according to plan. As a leader, it's important to be flexible and adaptable. Be open to change and be willing to pivot when necessary. Albert Einstein said it best: “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change."

8. Celebrate Successes: When your team achieves a goal or completes a project, take the time to celebrate their success. Recognize their hard work and show them that you appreciate their efforts. This will help build morale and motivate your team to continue to work hard.


It can be daunting to step into a leadership role for the first time, Remember that you were chosen for a reason. You have the skills and qualities needed to succeed in this role, and you're not expected to know everything right away.

Leadership is a journey, and there will be ups and downs along the way. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, as they can be valuable learning opportunities. Embrace the challenges that come your way, and don't hesitate to ask for help or guidance when you need it. Your team is there to support you, and together you can achieve great things. Remember that your leadership style is unique, and that's a good thing.

Don't try to be someone you're not, and instead focus on being authentic and true to yourself. Your team will appreciate your honesty and transparency. As you navigate your new role, prioritize building relationships with your team members. Get to know them on a personal level and understand their strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to delegate tasks effectively and create a more cohesive team.

Finally, remember that you're not alone. There are many resources available to support you on your leadership journey. Seek out mentors, attend training and development opportunities, and connect with other leaders in your industry


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