Stepping Into A New Leadership Role

Here’s a question that I often get asked by people who really care about being a great leader:

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The ones who already think they deserve leadership, and would be awesome at it, never ask this question.

The answer is simple. Leadership is not a title. So many people believe once they become a leader, they get to bark orders at people. That’s actually not leading. If you want to know if you’re leading, turn around. If no one is following you, then, by definition, you’re not a leader.

So how do you become the man or woman others will follow, especially if you are like @Mondster, who’s taking a leadership role for the first time?

  • Do I have influence?  – This is one of the questions I answered in 4 Questions You Should Ask About Your Leadership. The first rule of leadership is that you must have influence. Without it, team members won’t follow you. Heck, family members won’t follow you. They will do the tasks you’ve dictated, but you’ll get half of their productivity and none of their loyalty.
  • What about the last person? – When taking a role that was previously filled, I think it’s wise to sit down with the former leader—unless the last person was a colossal dork—and allow them to download everything about the team and their leadership style. Chances are some of the team loved that leader and remain loyal to them. Find out why. It could help you influence them your way.
  • Get team advice – The person who thinks they have all the answers and doesn’t utilize their team’s brain power is doomed to fail. You NEED your team to pull off all that you have in mind. Even if you have the answers, allow your team the opportunity to give input. And then, take their advice. This gives the team dignity, which gives them buy-in and then results in the most important thing—ownership. When I take ownership of something, I see it through. Otherwise, I just do your dictated tasks.
  • Pass out the trophies – People repeat what they are rewarded for. And how you treat your team shows them your values. Make sure you are CONSTANTLY telling people how they are winning and how proud you are of them. None of us have a difficult time finding people doing things wrong, but many of us struggle to find them doing things right.
  • What’s next?  – Don’t allow yourself to get in a rut of coming to work, doing your tasks, patting some folks on the back and going home. You MUST be pouring into yourself. Read, read, and read some more. Continually study leadership books, blogs (this is the best), podcasts or whatever you can get your hands on. Not all of it will be great, but you’ll be able to weed out the bad ones fast enough.

Starting out on the right foot will change the amount of time you spend fixing the problems that come up. Again, realize that people matter. They are the most important part of your leadership. Without them, your leadership doesn’t exist.

Question: What are some things you wished you knew as a new leader?



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Meet Chris LoCurto


Chris has a heart for changing lives by helping people discover the life and business they really want.

Decades of personal and leadership development experience, as well as running multi-million dollar businesses, has made him an expert in life and business coaching. personality types, and communication styles.

Growing up in a small logging town near Lake Tahoe, California, Chris learned a strong work ethic at home from his full-time working mom. He began his leadership and training career in the corporate world, starting but at E'TRADE.

53 thoughts on “Stepping Into A New Leadership Role”

  1. Superb list!  One thing I’d add is really get to know your teams personality types and your own.  This will aid communication and inspiration, help you delegate more effectively, and form better overall relationships with your team members.

        1.  @ChrisLoCurto  @lilykreitinger  @JoelFortner I lead my collected gaggle of personalities with my one dominate one. When I turn around, I see three submissive traits (letters) following me. Therefor, I am a leader of one, master of many. Right?

    1.  @JoelFortner This is a great point, Joel.  Most of the focus on the DISC profile format lies on the incoming manager.  But it would certainly help that new person to know what types of team member personalities they will be dealing with.
      I loved when Chris mentioned in a recent podcast that the Dave Ramsey facility has the letter of each person outside of their cubicle, indicated what type of personality type they are–before you interact with them.  How awesome is that? 

    2.  @JoelFortner I totally agree. I plan to have DISC profiles done for all my leaders and teachers –  I know this will impact how we are able to work together. What I’ve been wondering about, what would happen if we started deploying DISC testing before we started courses with our clients – that way we’d see what our students are like, and how we can ‘lead’ them more effectively. Hmmmmmm.

      1.  @Aaron Nelson  I would totally gear your classes towards your students based on their personality. It is amazing in Western culture that education is built around the “group” and that being outgoing and vocal in classroom “discussions” are prized possessions in the class. Contrast that with Eastern culture, where keeping your mouth shut and letting the teacher teach is a sign of wisdom. Ironically, the “west” side of DISC and the “east” side of DISC fit appropriately with each respective culture — your high D/I people would love participating in interactive classes, while your high S/C people would be quiet and listen. 

        1.  @Jonathan Henry Thanks for your ideas. I think there could be some really interesting work done around DISC in the classroom. I think I will pilot that in a month or two to see what the results are. Teacher knows their own DISC results – and also learns what each of their student’s results are. Classes are built and designed accordingly. I wonder what would happen. 
          And interesting thoughts on culture influences to personality. Totally part of the equation.

    3.  @JoelFortner What’s really interesting is at my new position, part of the culture is the Enneagram. Every few years they host a workshop for all employees and their families.  The idea it to help us get to know ourselves and each other to better frame interaction and conflict.

  2. That’s great Chris! “If no one is following you, then, by definition, you’re not a leader.” — That’s an undeniable truth.

    Unfortunately, many today think leading is all abot status, power, postion and ego. I believe that as a leader, the key to develop people is catch them doing something right. That’s a good way to interact with and affirm the members in our life.

  3. I would add, these points are also great ways to get noticed, and start developing a leadership following within your peers.  Great leaders can often times be lifted up from a group due to the respect that follows good hearted, well intentioned people.  Don’t forget to be honest to a point of transparency, we all make mistakes, your followers need to see that. 
    Great post Chris!

  4. I like the question: “.. you wished you knew as a new leader?” It seems funny to me because it is assuming that “new” leaders actually know something, and I’m fairly sure they don’t. 🙂 I’ve gained more knowledge from my team than what I had coming in, and that is the way it should be, right? 

  5. I wish I had taken the DISC profile before taking on my last supervisor role.  Also, as Joel pointed out, the entire team should have been mandated to do the same.  I knew what I was getting myself into, but the few toxic people were not eliminated by upper management, so their behavior has been allowed to continue.   I would have had a better gauge on what styles of behavior I was about to tangle with for the past 3 years.
    Chris, I respectfully disagree with the idea of downloading everything about the team to the new leader coming in.  I don’t think this is entirely a good idea.   As far as competency, I agree.  The new supervisor needs to know who can do what, who can’t, and who can to it well. 
    But as far as personalities and conduct, I think it will breed negativity, and in my case, make me look like a bitter exiting manager.  I think my replacement, having 17 years of leadership experience (as compared to my 4-5), will quickly assess who is a rock star and who is cancer to the department—without me outlining it for him.
    Plus, what if HE turns out to be a dork, and befriends the toxic crowd, further enabling the negative behavior?   Then I’ll be labeled the “troublemaker” with the new manager!

    1.  @skottydog Well said.  I agree about downloading info about the team to the new leader.  If the information comes from the wrong person, it can negatively shape the new leader’s thoughts and actions toward someone who is positively contributing to the team.  A first impression is everything and I don’t believe that impression should be shaped by a past leader.

    2.  @skottydog Politicians are likely not the best role models, but consider what happens in the U.S. between the time a new President is elected (November) and sworn into office (January). The new guy is focused on building his team and getting appointments vetted by Congress before he actually takes office. The old guy is doing everything he can now that he doesn’t have to deal with the consequences.
      Incoming Presidents usually meet with the advisors and cabinet members of the existing President to be apprised of various departmental situations. For example, security briefs and the topic of aliens at Rosewell have occurred between the CIA / Homeland Security Chief, the Defense Secretary, and the incoming President, but not always the current. Before he was President, Obama met with Bush’s Treasury Secretary (Paulson) to discuss the various TARP and auto bailout options that Paulson encouraged Congress and Bush to enact before Obama even took office so that the momentum would be going in the direction the new leader desired. Regardless of the opinion of the outcome and decisions, the manner in which leadership is transferred is remarkable.
      The reverse is true as well: in the 2000 election cycle, the delay in determining a winner between Bush and Gore and all the legal mess that followed delayed the natural transition. Bush did not have appointments passed through Congress until beyond 90 days AFTER he took office, rather than on the day he assumed the role. Not only did it delay Bush’s agenda, but it also created operating gaps that led to intelligence failures leading up to September 11th. 
      It would seem the intentional transition of leadership is just as important as the act of leading.

      1.  @Jonathan Henry  @skottydog I completely agree. The goal of meeting with the past leader is not to trust everything they are telling you and become a match of what they were. There’s a reason they are no longer in leadership, and you need to take what they say with a grain of salt. T
        The point is to find out the truths that they are willing to share and keep those in the back of your mind going forward. Once again, if they were a “colossal dork”, you don’t do this. That way you don’t have to worry about negativity. The goal is to find out what they did WELL in leadership and what about the team will help you to lead them instead of fighting their loyalty to last leader.
        You weigh this info out and keep an open mind as you go forward. Does this make more sense? 

        1. @ChrisLoCurto it absolutely makes perfect sense, Chris. I had most definitely planned to share with the new supervisor those things that made the place run smoother, as well as the areas that need attention.
          I fully trust in my manager as well (Chris–you met her as well @ the Entre-1 day in March)– she is a great leader and has never steered me wrong thus far. She also suggested that a give a brief rundown on each team member’s strengths and weaknesses…diplomatically!
          I plan on delivering unbiased reports as I pass the torch.

      2. @Jonathan Henry Wow! Great examples of proper (and improper) leadership transitions. I don’t plan on bad-mouthing anyone to the new supervisor, as I will be working under his leadership as well as the rest of the team. But I do intend to show him each person’s file. Each person’s track record should speak for themselves.

  6. Some of the lessons learned from big leadership failure:
    –  Be prepared!  If I would have read all the leadership books I’ve read in the past six months, I would have not made 80% of the mistakes I did.
    – Cast a vision and create a culture.  If I would’ve done that, the ‘bad apples’  would have left the team on their own, out of simply not fitting in with a great team.
    – Recognize weaknesses and work on them.  Because of my personality style,  I was focused 99% of the relationship and 1% on the task.  I was not aware of this at all.  My team failed to perform because I failed to guide them in the right direction.
    It’s been so painful that I’ve stayed away from leadership roles on purpose. However, I keep getting volunteered to lead and as scary as it is from past failures, I would like to learn to humbly take these opportunities when they arise.  Everything I am learning from EntreLeadership -the book, podcast, blog community- is giving me the tools I need to succeed when the right time comes.   I have a lot to learn, but the one thing I have to write on my forehead with a Sharpie – It is NOT about me!

    1.  @lilykreitinger Boy do I see some of me in here. Thanks for sharing this. 
      I wonder if we can ever lead without failing? I don’t think so. What I think is interesting about what you posted here is that you keep getting ‘invited’ to lead. To me, that means people see someone worth following. 🙂 

      1.  @Aaron Nelson I don’t think so either. One of the things I keep with me came from Dave Ramsey in an Entreleadership Podcast: “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not doing enough.” That has helped guide me out of indecision into action several times in the past few weeks!

  7. Just SOME things I wish I knew as a new leader? Man, that’s hard because there are so many  things I wish I knew. I would echo @lilykreitinger in how important it is to have and cast vision, and be constantly working on culture. 
    Being a person of influence as you so rightly say Chris. Leadership is not a title, it’s how you inspire people to follow you. 
    I am rereading John Maxwell’s ‘Developing the Leader Within You’ – which deals heavily with these topics (Leadership is earned, it’s not a title, it’s about influence etc.) That is something I wish I knew a LONG time ago. Why? I wish I knew this long ago so that could have learned about how to be earning and building followers. Those things take time.  
    Effective delegation is something I also wish I knew long ago. When you’re running your own business, thinking with an ‘effective delegation’ mindset from the start will change how you do EVERYTHING. (Literally – you shouldn’t be doing everything yourself.)
    Thanks for this great post.  

  8. Love it.  My role is continuing to change/ evolve and these are all things that have been helpful and I know need to continue to be a priority. 
    Focusing on being a good leader keeps me from feeling like I’m babysitting 3rd graders in adult bodies some days.  Thanks for another great post.

  9. Managing a resort and trying to get work out of kids who had no work ethic – wow, I wish I had known about personality profiles so I could have manipulated them into productivity and efficiency. (Is that what you do when you know someone’s letter? Manipulate them?)
    Leading a team of volunteers to start a mural project – I wish I had known how to write an agenda and lead a meeting when we began (The city REALLY didn’t have anyone else stupid enough to say yes to that job!)
    Teaching people how to draw – I wish I had actually known how to teach when I started instead of just taking on students out of desperation and because of pressure. Those poor students – I was just practicing on them.

  10. RicardoButler

    I wish when I first started leading people back in the US Army (1998-2001) that just because I had rank didn’t mean I was a leader. I pulled rank so much back then. Plus I was a driver personality back them. I am more amiable and expressive now then I was back then. I have learned to balance that a bit. Now I can build people and build people to produce without hurting their feelings. A soft answer still turns away wrath.

  11. Nice, shameless plug 🙂
    “What are some things you wished you knew as a new leader?”
    Well, new is me….so everything! Pour it on!!
    I love your points–those are the things that make me want to be a leader! If it was just a title, barking orders, I would want no part in that.
    My current boss epitomizes your list. And it’s definitely the best place I’ve ever worked 🙂  So I’m following him pretty close! 
    Thanks for sharing!! 🙂 

  12. There can be a lot of leadership roles: Planning an agenda for your visit, organizing an activity, communicating news and events to the residents, scheduling visits with the staff, public speaking to explain a game or craft, coordinating other volunteers… the possibilities are endless. Kudos to you for helping in your community.

  13. These are great, Chris, thanks so much.  I’m absorbing all I can, listening & really trying to learn the personalities & interactions around me.  On my doubtful days I remind myself there’s a reason they chose me. That, or I’m a really good salesperson. 🙂
    Thanks again.

  14. I wish I knew it is completely ALRIGHT to be yourself. There are MANY different leadership styles. In some ways I think you really need to change your style (slightly) when interacting with each person as we are all different. There is no one “right” way to lead.

    1.  @unknownjim Good point. I’ve been struggling with that too.  With how much personality I can bring in and at what point.  If I should “adapt” to the environment, but then I’d be “adapting” to my perception of the environment as a newbie which is probably flawed.  I figure it’s best to ease into the singing, corny jokes and spontaneous dancing.  🙂

  15. Understand clearly responsibilities, deadlines and accountability. Review all personnel who report up, strengths/weaknesses. Have clear measurable performance objectives outlined and written, not only for individual accepting the leadership role, but all subordinates. Understand the same with next level up,

  16. These are high profile, Chris, thanks so much.  I’m absorbing all I can, listening & really trying to learn the personalities & interactions around me.  On my doubtful days I remind myself there’s a reason they chose me. That, or I’m a really good salesperson. 🙂

  17. I grew and learned to accept the situation but never did fully, a role was never filled. A ideal childhood was never achieved. Foolish was I to think of the possibility. Shortly after settling in, my dad gets a new job in which he worked till late night,

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