In the journey of our careers, many of us find ourselves in leadership positions that we hadn’t initially planned for. Whether it’s stepping up to lead a project or team due to unforeseen circumstances, being promoted because we are great at our old role, taking on a new role that carries leadership responsibilities, or growing a small business successfully to the point we now employ a team, becoming an accidental leader can be both challenging and rewarding.
Thriving as an accidental leader is not only possible but it’s also an opportunity for personal and professional growth.
So yes, it is absolutely possible to not only survive, but to excel in this unexpected role!
Here are 8 ways you can learn to thrive as an accidental leader:
- Identify Your Knowledge and Skills Gaps Starting Point: Effective leaders are self-aware. Take time to assess your knowledge and skills gaps and seek feedback. Identify what are you finding challenging and what you need help with. Often it will likely be around managing people than the actual technical aspect of the job. So take time to really consider is it knowledge, a skills gap or a behaviour you need support with? Recognise that you don’t have to know everything. Be willing to seek help and resources to address those gaps and get help to put a personal development plan in place. This humility and willingness to learn will earn the respect of your team and peers and be less stressful to you in the long run.
- Embrace Continuous Learning: As accidental leaders, our leadership skills may not have been honed in a traditional way. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t become effective or even exceptional leaders. Embrace a growth mindset of continuous learning. Attend workshops and development programmes, read leadership books, and take online courses to stay updated and confident in your role. People management has many layers and aspects and accepting there is always more you can learn and develop will stand you in good stead. The more you commit to your own growth, the better equipped you’ll be to lead your team for the long term.
- Get a Mentor or Coach: Having a mentor or coach can be a game-changer in your leadership journey. Identify which one you need ( they perform different roles) then seek out experienced individuals who can be a sounding board, provoke and stretch your thinking, provide guidance, share their wisdom, and offer constructive feedback. A mentor or coach can help you navigate the challenges of leadership and really accelerate your growth and confidence in your new role much mor than going it alone.
- Build Strong Relationships: Leadership is not about tasks and responsibilities; it’s about inspiring and motivating people. Foster positive relationships with your team members and colleagues. Effective communication, active listening, consistency and empathy go a long way in gaining their trust and support. Be approachable and create a work environment where open dialogue is encouraged. When your team knows you care, they’ll be more motivated to follow your lead.
- Lead by Example: One of the most powerful tools in a leader’s toolkit is leading by example. You create the culture of your team or business so demonstrate the qualities and behaviours you expect from your team. Set a positive tone by being punctual, reliable, and displaying a strong work ethic of course AND also be fully present, listen well, coach, be inclusive and caring and have fun. Your actions will inspire others to follow suit, and together, you can create a culture of accountability and excellence where everyone thrives.
- Delegate Wisely: Delegation is a skill every leader must master. Accidental leaders should learn to delegate tasks effectively. Identify your team members’ strengths and weaknesses, and assign responsibilities accordingly. Trust your team to handle their tasks independently, but always be available for guidance and support when needed. Delegating effectively empowers your team and allows you to focus on higher-level responsibilities.
- Adaptability and Resilience: Accidental leaders often find themselves facing unexpected challenges. Embrace change and adapt to new circumstances with resilience. Change management and resilience can be learnt as can strategies to stay calm under pressure, problem-solve creatively, and maintain a positive attitude. Your ability to navigate uncertainties will inspire confidence in your leadership and help your team weather any storm.
- Communicate: Effective communication is the backbone of successful leadership. Clearly articulate your expectations, goals, and vision to your team and encourage open and honest communication. Be an active and empathetic listener, hold regular 121s and talk about non work stuff. Be human. Good communication fosters trust and collaboration, making it easier to lead effectively.
So go on, embrace your leadership journey with enthusiasm, and you’ll be amazed at the positive changes you can bring about.
Points to ponder:
- What resonates with me? Do I currently embrace my role?
- What people skills do I know will make a difference to me and my team and that I want to or need to develop?
- What further impact can I make?
And if you’d like to chat about developing your leadership skills and behaviours Book a complementary call here