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From Peer to Leader: Changing Dynamics in Your Team

leadership transition Jan 17, 2024

- By Sophie Pinkoski

Embarking on the journey from peer to leader can be a daunting experience. Your organization reaps plenty of benefits from hiring you internally as their new leader. You’re already well-versed in both your organization's culture and your team's strengths. However, you may still have many complexities to navigate in your new role. The shift in dynamics, from being on the same level with your colleagues to now leading them, is certainly one of them. Rather than avoiding the discomfort, it's essential to address it head-on by setting clear rules and expectations from the outset.

It's okay to be friendly with your team without being their friend.

Being a leader demands a delicate balance between approachability and decisiveness. Tough decisions must be made by leaders to benefit the organization. People you may have depended upon as a friend and confidant in your previous role may not agree with the choices you make. For this reason, it’s going to take work to acclimatize your team to this new dynamic. Include them in your transition process by asking their feedback.

Make and communicate significant organizational changes in the context of your rapport and intentions.

Here are ways to navigate your new dynamic with your team for a smooth leadership transition:

Alleviate initial concerns with one-on-one meetings –– Your first meetings with your team members should be individual one on ones to get a sense of where everyone is at both in their current projects and in reaction to the leadership transition. It’s important at this early stage to be attentive to what they have to say.

Ask your team where they need support and what could be improved.

What direction do they envision for their career development going forward? Be sure to repeat what they have told you to ensure that you have fully understood. Above all, reassure them that you are there for them as a supportive resource.

Set expectations in your first team meeting –– When sharing your perspective as the new leader for the first time, it’s important to have everyone from your team involved in the discussion. This not only makes the transition process more inclusive, but also ensures everyone receives the same information. The initial team meeting is your opportunity to address expectations. After taking feedback from your one on ones on board, you can express your vision for the organization. Allow your team to ask clarifying questions about what is expected. Boundary setting is also key at this stage. Be transparent about when you are available to them and your preferred mode of communication. This will reconfirm the organization’s culture now that you’re at its helm.

Share two to three guiding principles that best reflect your philosophies to give your team a sense of what to expect from your leadership style.

Earn your team’s trust through your actions –– Now is the time to prove to your team why you were promoted to this role in the first place. Your influence won’t come immediately with the role; it must be earned.

The best way to prove yourself to your team is to inspire by doing–– working hard at what you do will empower them to do the same.

Give them a reason to believe in you so you can actively support them. The more confidence they have in you, based on how your actions reflect your values, the more willing they will be to invest in what you have to offer.

Champion your team’s strengths to build self-sufficiency –– An exceptional leader brings out the strengths of everyone around them. Your team should be your priority as you build their trust in you. Empower them to find innovative solutions to their biggest concerns.

As a leader you will need to leverage your team. Consider what you have the capacity to take on yourself and what you need to delegate and oversee.

Delegate tasks to individuals with the necessary skills to manage them. There should be a level of reciprocity between you and your team. You were promoted for your specific skills. Help build those same competencies within your team while also knowing when to ask certain individuals for their expertise to fill your gaps.

The more you can build one another’s competencies, the more confident your team will be to take on their own tasks.

Transitioning from a peer to a leader can be undoubtedly challenging, but with proactive communication, a clear vision, and a commitment to developing your team, it can be a rewarding experience. Embrace the changing dynamics between you and your colleagues.

Play to your team’s strengths to properly advance the organization’s goals.

While you may grieve the loss of your peer friendships, setting boundaries and remaining transparent about your intentions will ultimately contribute to a more successful and harmonious work environment.


Further Reading

Promoted From Peer To Leader? 17 Ways To Make A Smooth Transition, Forbes

Peer to Boss: The Important Transition No One Told You About, Forbes

Six Pitfalls to Avoid When You Transition from Peer to Manager, Manage to Soar

How To Manage Former Peers and Why It Matters (With Tips), Indeed

What to Do First When Managing Former Peers, Harvard Business Review

The First 3 Conversations to Have When You Are Promoted to Management Over Your Peers, The Training Doctor

Transitioning from Peer to Leader, People Think

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