So you want to be the boss?

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Or, perhaps a better question is: Who doesn’t want to be the boss? In addition to higher pay, managers typically experience more power, prestige and freedom than their junior-level counterparts.

Chances are, if you got offered a promotion to a management position, you’d enthusiastically accept. But along with the glory of being the boss comes a lot of responsibility … responsibility that not everyone is ready for when they take on a leadership role.

According to a new CareerBuilder survey, one-in-four managers reported that they weren’t actually ready to become a leader when they started supervising others – a figure that’s not entirely surprising.

“Any supervisory job is dramatically different from a non-supervisory role,” says Dennis Kravetz, author of “Measuring Human Capital: Converting Workplace Behavior into Dollars.” “For example, non-supervisory engineers need to have a variety of technical engineering competencies, accountants need technical accounting skills, etc.  Employees are trained for this at the college level and their performance at a non-supervisory level is based on how technically competent they are in their field.”

In a management role, however, Kravetz says the necessary skills for success are entirely different. “Supervisors primarily need people competencies (developing others, handling conflict, scheduling work, etc.). Engineers and accountants had zero college courses in areas like this and no on-the-job training either. The net result is that these people are often lost in the job of new supervisor,” he says.

Indeed, it seems that the areas most managers struggle with are primarily those that are people-centric. According to the survey, managers reported having the most trouble with the following:

  • Dealing with issues between co-workers on my team – 25 percent
  • Motivating team members – 22 percent
  • Performance reviews – 15 percent
  • Finding the resources needed to support the team – 15 percent
  • Creating career paths for my team – 12 percent

A successful transition into a supervisory position can be made, though, even if you don’t have any leadership experience. Here’s how to prepare yourself for leadership, and what not to do once you get there.

According to Kravetz, doing the following will increase your potential for management success:

  • Take available classes targeted for new supervisors. If these are not offered by your employer, find them through professional management associations, college continuing education classes and other vendors.
  • Identify effective supervisors where you work. Model yourself after them. Ask them if they could mentor you on how to be a good supervisor.
  • Seek out team leadership and project leadership roles even when you are not assigned to this role. Learn from the experience.
  • Seek out your current supervisor for an informal assessment of your strengths and weaknesses as a potential supervisor and work on your weaknesses.
  • Read practical, how-to books on being a supervisor. (Kravetz wrote two such books “The Directory for Building Competencies” and “The Competence Builder” that help people build competencies in any area.)

On the other hand, once you’re ready for a management role, make sure to steer clear of any of the below behaviors, which, according to the CareerBuilder survey, are the top concerns workers have with their bosses:

  • Playing favorites – 23 percent
  • Not following through on promises – 21 percent
  • Not listening to concerns – 21 percent
  • Failing to provide regular feedback – 20 percent
  • Not keeping employees motivated – 17 percent
  • Not facilitating employee development – 17 percent
  • Only providing negative feedback – 14 percent

Are you a manager? How did you learn to be successful? What important lessons have you learned about leadership? Tell us in the comments section, below.

Want to know more about leadership roles? Check out:

  1. Looking at your list of don’t do’s, I was having a bit of deja Vu as thoughts of one of my past crappy bosses came to mind.

    All to often it seems there is no one to take the leadership role, and the person who has to take the helm, does not have the requisite competencies.

    I firmly believe that some people are better leaders than other, but I also believe that some people should just not be in leadership roles at all.

  2. Over the course of a 30 year career working with and for people with disabilities I had many leadership opportunities. Frankly, I grew into a much better leader when I adopted Colin Powell’s “Thirteen Thoughts to Live By.” Number 10 in particular is of critical importance to anyone in a leadership role — “Remain calm. Be kind.” When I incorporated this into my daily behavior, most of the very natural anxiety I had about confronting a problem issue or employee just dissolved, because I knew that the situation would not escalate into a shouting match. I would remain calm and kind.

    During the last several years of my career I had the opportunity to serve as the state director of the New Mexico Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. During that time I came upon the idea of writing a book about the power of kindness. When I retired in 2008 I did just that. I wish everyone who embarks upon a role of leadership would read this book. More than anything else it acknowledges that “random acts of kindness” are fine, but there should be nothing random about the decision to be kind.


  3. Pingback: Did you receive management training? No? You’re not alone. « Bud to Boss

    • Note to on-the-job-training

      If you don’t have anytime to spend your money maybe you need to learn to delegate. This would also make you a better mentor and coach and gain more respect from subs.

  4. Wanting to be the “boss” and leadership go hand-in-hand. An interesting article appeared today on concerning qualities of leadership. Unfortunately, in listing the qualities of what makes a good leader, no mention was made of ethical leadership. One contributor to the article mentioned “authenticity” as the most important influence. I would suggest that ethical leadership is the building block from which all other qualities should emerge.

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