"Nobody comes to his first leadership position knowing everything he needs to succeed."
Your First Leadership Job is a book giving new leaders practical, tangible advice as they embark on the journey into their first leadership role. The book is written by Tacy Byham, the CEO of Development Dimensions International (DDI) and Richard Wellins, who is a global expert on leadership development.
This book is very tool heavy, which acts as a great resource for new leaders, but also shares countless examples, case studies, and surveys based on the authors’ and DDI’s extensive industry experience and research.
Your First Leadership Job is broken into two sections:
Part one introduces the concept of a catalyst leader, which is defined as a leader who sparks energy, passion, and commitment in others. Now, any current leader knows the transition from an individual contributor to a manager is, without a doubt, a challenging move. Luckily for the reader, part one lays out the foundation for the necessary fundamental skills that will put you on the path towards becoming a successful and effective catalyst leader.
Part two then dives into more advanced leadership skills where the authors take a deep dive into various required leadership skills such as coaching, hiring, performance reviews, handling difficult employees, networking and influence. There is also chapter for first-time female leaders.
Your First Leadership Job can be read cover to cover in detail, or it can be used as a just-in-time resource to focus on the topics that are most relevant to you at that given time. Either way, this book should be viewed as a hands-on resource for all new leaders to have at the ready!
What Makes a Great Leader?
"Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."
DDI calls great leaders, catalyst leaders, which again, is defined as leaders that have a knack for building engagement, involving others and capitalizing on people’s strengths and diverse viewpoints. There are common characteristics that make up a leader like this and they are:
Asks and listens, fosters innovation, provides balanced feedback, builds trust, focuses on people’s potential, collaborates and networks, empowers others, encourages development, energizes and mobilizes and aligns actions with strategy.
Leadership is a large responsibility that requires a lot of an individual. I love this list because it gives us a holistic overview of what all a leadership role encompasses. While, I’ll admit, it’s a bit overwhelming, it is extremely helpful to see it laid out in black and white. I would recommend reviewing this list to self-assess what areas you currently excel in and what areas you can improve.
DDI surveyed over 1,200 employees and asked the question: What differentiates the best boss from the worst boss you ever worked for? Unfortunately, only 22 percent said they are currently working for their best boss ever. And as you might have expected, they rated their best bosses as three times more likely to use and exhibit catalyst behaviors.
"The people who now report to you will form an early judgement about your leadership capabilities that will define your reputation in ways that may not serve you well."
As you embark on your new role as a leader, your new team will be observing you under a microscope! They will form an early judgement about you and your capabilities that will end up defining your reputation amongst the team and others within the organization. Think about it this way – if a customer has a bad experience at a restaurant, will they go back? Most likely not. Will they share their negative experience with others? Mostly likely, in some capacity. That negative experience with that one customer, one time, can have lasting impact on that restaurant. The same goes for your reputation as a leader.
This concept of being authentic is as critical in your role as a leader as anything. Being authentic means that your actions mirror what you believe and feel, and that there is no contradiction between what you do and what you say.
The way to remain authentic and show your integrity to your team is through consistent, well-crafted conversations and behaviors.
Bring Out the Best in People
"Great leaders know that their success relies on the success of the people they lead."
The best leaders have the ability to make those around them better, and they know that their personal success relies on the success of the people they lead. Just like a coach does in sports, it’s a leader’s responsibility to enhance their team member’s skills, abilities, and interests. This win-win mentality also helps to create a collaborative, engaged culture which will make the workplace more enjoyable for all.
Here are some suggestions from the authors on what to do to bring out the best in your people:
- Encourage them to try new things
- Cultivate and optimize others’ talent and capabilities
- Take the time to find out what motivates your team and then assign work that is in line with their skills and interests
- Compliment people on their efforts
- Give people input on the things that affect them
- Trust in the strength of others
- Allow them to safely learn through failure
- Unite others towards common goals
As a newer leader myself, I found Your First Leadership Job to be a great resource to leverage in my own personal leadership journey. Not only is the book full of great insights, examples, tools and exercises, their website has even more bonus materials that are extremely helpful for leaders at any level!
Becoming a great leader is a journey that can be a bumpy one at times. However, the rewards along the way can be very fulfilling if you’ve chosen to be a leader for the right reasons. With training, experience, continued growth, and resources like Your First Leadership Job, you will be on the right path to becoming a successful leader.
I will end this summary with the same challenge the authors ended the book with… “When people ask you what you do for a living, tell them you’re a leader.”