How to leave your old job behind in your new role as a leader

HR leader, confident female business leader

Article by Zana Goic Petricevic, entrepreneur, author and executive leadership coach

The progression to a leadership position is often challenging as it requires a complete change of mindset to succeed.

One thing I’m noticing while coaching individuals in the corporate arena is that leadership promotions normally come to them because they have been a fantastic executor, someone who is brilliant at getting work down. In a leadership role what’s expected of them has completely changed, but often their mindset is still thinking like a successful executor.

In a previous role, you may have been praised for a specific way of working – it might have been that you were good at getting work done fast, you knew every small detail and became an expert in all the intricate details to get the work done. The issue is, that something else is expected of you once you move into a leadership position – and because there is a lot on your plate to succeed in a new role your mindset needs to change. Often it is not about working more or faster, but rather working in a different way. And to be able to do so, there is a lot of self-awareness and personal development needed.

This can be hard; it means letting go of how you’ve always been doing your work and for which you have been praised for up until this point. Being praised for having everything under control, now you need to suddenly stop micromanaging. Getting recognition for being an expert that has all the answers, now you suddenly need to become a coach that asks questions rather than tells their people what to do or even step into a bigger extreme and become a learner that asks for help because you don’t know all the answers. It can be challenging, but to succeed in a new leadership role, you need to bring along a new identity that doesn’t come naturally just because your role description has changed.

Developing a leadership mindset

When entering a leadership position, it requires you to personally develop to work differently – not simply just doing more work faster. The mistake most people make in entering a leadership position is thinking, “okay now I’m a leader, I’ve got so much more to do. I simply need to work more.” But, you need to start working differently and start looking at things differently.

This is where we come to very practical things, like the art of delegating. The essence of delegating is letting go of control. The challenge here is it redefines you from your old role from somebody who executes it to someone who mentors and supervises. This can be a difficult change, as instead of providing solutions to problems which have always made you feel worthy and safe, the leadership role is really about listening and asking different questions to support your team to get to the answers themselves.

Because we’re all pressed for time and deadlines, this approach can be very challenging and yet it is a long-term investment into your team, who then becomes independent, who then becomes the developed to deal with issues on the road, rather than the team, who remains the victim, who needs to be saved by the leader every time.

Personal leadership development

When undergoing the transition from a previous job into a new role as a leader, personal leadership development is key to assuming the position with confidence and ease. Personal leadership development consists of the internal work one does – including understanding what makes us tick, to lead us to clearer decision making.

During this process, we endeavour to meet different versions of ourselves; our illusions, beliefs and above all the narratives we spin. In doing this inner work, we create the opportunity to overcome inner obstacles which are holding us back from being the best leaders we can be and consequently to create new value for our world. The goal here is to disrupt ourselves and the foundations we know, through exploration and self-healing. This is something often overlooked and undervalued in the business world, but it is essential to be able to meet our world in a new, bigger, and bolder way. It is how a leader can successfully bring about intentional change.

Entering a new phase in your career can evoke the misconception that we must leave our old selves behind entirely to grow. As much as we need a new identity, part of it is to find room for our old story within our new one. In the context of leadership development, disclosing and embracing your old story via self-awareness is what makes room for the new one. Without this self-reflection, we will hardly become open to our actual leadership contribution through the process of unlocking our entire leadership potential.

We have to fully investigate and embrace our previous story, take ownership of a new one, and then bravely push forward to generate value through our job. This is what expanding our range means on the most practical level and it includes understanding and accepting both our light and shadow aspects. That allows us to be energised by them both, to grow strong and entire in what we call our full potential.

Once we begin to eagerly own our new story, we begin to add fresh worth to our surroundings. This means we are no longer bystanders, silent observers, or spectators worried if we have all the answers before we act. We are in the process of becoming contributors, which is essentially the definition of what it means to be a leader. The process of growth continues even after your old story becomes your new one, with many other fresh stories waiting in line for your future development and alongside your future leadership roles.

About the author

Zana Goic Petricevic is an internationally certified leadership coach and consultant. She is the founder of Bold Leadership Culture, and the author of Bold Reinvented: Next level leading with Courage, Consciousness and Conviction.


Zana Goic Petricevic

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