Moving to the head of the pack – a reflection on my transition to leadership

Moving to the head of the pack – a reflection on my transition to leadership


Managing staff is one thing but how do you guide a team of potential leaders? How do you identify who they are professionally and personally, and what skills are needed to help them realise their potential?

When I made the transition from being a “doer” within the workplace to leading teams, the question I found myself asking was how do I identify individuals in my team who are potential leaders to help me get the job done?

In a culture where managing change has become a necessary element of day-to-day business for leaders and managers, I feel it is important to recognise those who will influence their peers and help drive transformation within an organisation. Not only will these employees assist in times of transition within workplaces, but they too will deliver results and help you as a leader support continuous achievement of business objectives.

From my point of view, leadership is about developing your people and encouraging them to grow; to take on the right level of workload, at a pace they can handle. Leadership behaviours I cherish are personal character, attitude, and the ability to make decisions and be inspirational to others. Something I learned early on in my career was that although leading and managing people go hand-in-hand, leadership does not depend on the type of management methods and processes used. Instead, I believe that leadership revolves around the way a leader uses the methods and processes in place and leadership leverages attitudinal qualities that sit above the management processes. In summary, I believe that strong leaders need to be good managerial operators but the real value comes from the emotive stuff.

Guiding potential leaders is very different to leading the doers. First and foremost, potential leaders are generally high achievers, rising stars with the smarts, ambition and hunger to dream big and make it to the top. This is why leaders are required to support and encourage people to lead themselves. To fuel the inspiration and vision, and build on the confidence staff require to lead themselves. Consider this, if you want the best from people, they must first believe they are capable of more, and then that giving more matters. Secondly, make clear requests for meaningful outcomes. Leaders who entrust others to deliver results, develop similarly cultivated leaders, so I encourage you to challenge your people push their limits and learn from their efforts.

Potential leaders are typically well versed with workplace systems and processes, as well as the organisation structure and existing culture. They have conviction and are passionate about their workplace. They are also aware of the organisation’s strengths—and, more importantly, weaknesses, as this allows them to make improved and more informed decisions.

Specific behaviours which can assist in building potential leaders include leading by example, as well as listening more and speaking less. Within this area, a key element is the ability to recognise and enable subordinates who are more accomplished, knowledgeable and experienced than you are in their specialised area of responsibility.

Leaders are not defined by their job titles. Many get their opportunity when someone in a senior position recognises their spark and drive, and helps shape their development. I have experienced this first-hand whereby senior staff pulled me aside after a meeting requesting me to elaborate on comments I had made. By sharing my viewpoint and opinion directly with senior decision makers in a candid environment gave them an opportunity to observe why I was so enthusiastic about a particular topic, idea or decision.

Furthermore, it was during a time of reflection after my encounter that I realised a great lesson had been learnt. That lesson is to include all your big thinkers in a room at once to solve your most wicked problems, irrespective of position and title, otherwise you tempt the possibility of big ideas getting “lost in the shuffle” of upward approval processes.

Therefore I encourage leaders to take a closer look at your team and identify the players who are potential leaders that you can count on to help you get the job done. Let’s inspire, empower and motivate our potential leaders; and make a difference in employee attitude, performance and ultimately the organisation’s success.

Darlene Quirk