When new leaders take over, there is a period of exploration that occurs between the leader and his or her staff. Both form impressions of each other that impacts the nature and results of the new relationship. This process typically occurs in any new interaction. As human beings, we tend to form quick initial opinions that help us identify the risk or compatibility associated with new people. Think how often we hear someone talk about he or she “seems like a nice person.” In the most basic sense, this instinct must go back to early times when we had to make quick decisions over if we should interact, fight, or flee when we encountered someone new. Once we form this initial impression, we start to observe and look for more behavioral clues to form perceptions. By observing another, we can identify habits, traits, repetitive actions, and regular behaviors. A specific opinion may change as a result of these more detailed observations or initial thoughts may be reinforced.
A new leader operates in this human dynamic. Both leaders and employees form initial impressions and then begin the process of validating that perception. However, a leader undergoes a double process. By taking on a new leadership position, the leader is evaluated as a new member of the group and the one with responsibility for the group. In other words, members of a group determine if they are willing to accept the new leader as a group member as well as their leader. What characteristics does a new leader need to have to improve the chance of acceptance as a leader?
- Trust – Employees must trust their leader for the leader to be successful. Trust is the foundation of any relationship and a workplace without trust will breed conflict, uncertainty, and a lack of productivity.
- Confidence – Employees must feel that the leader is decisive and confident in the direction that he or she is leading. If employees sense that that the leader is unsure, then the influence of the leader is significantly diminished.
- Caring – Employees want to know that their interest factors into the decision-making of the leader. An employee’s goals and well-being must be one of the priorities of the leader if he or she is going to maintain engagement.
- Positive Thinking- Employees want to follow someone that is positive. If the leader constantly complains or places blame, employees assume that the leader cannot be satisfied.
What are some simple things that a new can do to increase acceptance?
- Create a Positive Image – It is important that a leader be viewed as a positive individual and force in the workplace. No one wants to work for Chicken Little. Most employees want to be inspired and motivated instead of told all the things that are wrong. This is not to say that there are not many controllable and uncontrollable challenges that create negative feelings in the on a routine basis. However, a strong leader mitigates the impact of these challenges and ensures that employees are sufficient insulated from negativism.
- Build Trust – Trust is a complex combination of perception and reality. Our views of the actions, motives, and thoughts of a leader typically tie into the perceived level of trust. A leader needs to actually build trust. By being honest, showing respect, and developing relationships, a leader can build trust among his or her direct reports.
- Build Confidence – Employees need emotional and operational support to produce high quality results and feel engaged. It is important to build the confidence of your team by making other people feel important. By listening, encouraging, and developing your employees, confidence will grow.