3 Tips for New Managers to Develop Their Personal Leadership Playbook

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Alexa von Tobel
The Inspired Team
Founder & Managing Partner
May 25, 2024
3 Tips for New Managers to Develop Their Personal Leadership Playbook

This article was originally published with Fast Company

Developing management skills and continuing to refine your approach is hard for everyone—and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.

Back in 2020, I hosted Wade Foster, CEO of Zapier, on my podcast to discuss what it was like managing a remote team during the heart of COVID. He remarked that one thing that became strikingly obvious as a young entrepreneur stepping into a leadership role is that virtually everyone lacks formal training toMost managers are simply promoted or hired into their roles because they have excelled at the functional aspect of their job, rather than proving their chops as real leaders.

As you might imagine, a one-size-fits-all approach does not exist for becoming an exceptional manager. You have to pinpoint your unique strengths and weaknesses.

One of my biggest takeaways from business school that continues to stand the test of time is that you shouldn’t focus on limiting your weaknesses. Focus instead onThis is true for yourself and for the people you manage. If you can understand your junior colleagues’ strengths (and all of your colleagues’ strengths for that matter), you can capture them and push them further—making you and your team stronger and more productive.

Let’s break down a few other frameworks to help build and refine your unique management style.

Put Partnership at the Core of Your Leadership Playbook

Leadership at its core is deeply caring about your teammates. If you sincerely care about their well-being and careers, you create an environment that empowers your team to reach, and eventually expand, their potential. Excellent leadership is built from a sturdy foundation of genuine partnership and shared goals.

Transforming a startup from a mere concept to a successful business requires a leader capable of breaking through barriers—and that leader can not achieve success alone. Last March, the events surrounding OpenAI taught us how strong loyalty can be when you’re all working toward a shared mission. Just like a team striving toward a winning title—there are individual goals that can be achieved in between—but the success of the group is what needs to be held to the highest priority.

Empower Yourself to Empower Others

Let me be clear, leading or managing a team is no easy task. Much of your day is spent absorbing your teammates’ challenges, from troubleshooting problems to addressing broken workflows or managing internal and external complaints. It can be a thankless job, and it is critical to realize when your battery is drained—and most importantly, when you need some time to recharge. It is critical to develop a toolbox of resources to manage stress and decompress. It may sound cliché, but if you neglect to take care of yourself, you will have a hard time leading at your full potential.

Envision the Sturdy Pilot

I always return to the analogy of Dr. Becky Kennedy, CEO and founder of Good Inside, in which she likens sturdy leadership to a pilot navigating a turbulent flight. Although Dr. Becky's advice is geared toward parents, the same principles apply to managing a team.

She describes three potential options for a pilot’s reaction to anxious passengers. The first option entails the pilot berating the passengers for their fear, which as you might imagine, only makes the situation worse and does not instill any confidence in the group.

Similarly, the second option involves the pilot admitting their trepidation and uncertainty, which also falls short of calming the passengers’ fears.

The third and optimal choice requires the pilot to acknowledge the passengers’ concerns and reaffirm their lengthy experience managing weather when flying.

The two key ingredients to the final approach are empathy and confidence. As a manager, you will never have perfect information and often have to make challenging decisions where the right approach isn’t obvious.

This is the undeniable reality of leadership—and the best leaders ground their teams and continue to move forward efficiently. As you navigate the complexities of leadership, remember that true excellence lies in connecting, inspiring, and guiding those around you toward a common vision.