New leaders need 2 traits -- and both can be learned

New leaders need 2 traits -- and both can be learned | practice (split each time) | Use these best practices to avoid new leader burnout
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April 22, 2024
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Leading the Way
New leaders need 2 traits -- and both can be learned
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Spot potential leaders in your organization by looking for those who can toggle between concrete and abstract thinking, says psychologist and author Adam Grant, who recommends strategies for training up-and-coming leaders who may excel in one area but need improvement in the other. "We admire child prodigies in music, natural athletes in sports, geniuses in school, but focusing on where people start causes us to overlook the distance that they're capable of traveling," Grant notes.
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Put it into practice: Aside from abstract and concrete thinking skills, new leaders need a set of subskills including problem-solving, collaboration and business acumen, Grant notes. Group coaching, classes and other methods are effective, but Grant says getting a chance to practice new skills are key to solidifying them.
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Use these best practices to avoid new leader burnout
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New leaders may suffer from overwhelm or an urge to prove themselves, which can lead to being overextended, ignoring difficult situations or underestimating the amount of empathy and other emotional skills they'll need, writes business growth coach Zándra Bishop. Some best practices for success Bishop offers include setting clear expectations, being transparent and setting "a sustainable pace for yourself and your team" to avoid burnout.
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Put it into practice: Minimize mistakes as a new leader by working with a coach or mentor, learning all you can and delegating work as a way to build a strong team, Bishop advises. "Recognize that delegation is not a sign of weakness but a critical skill for effective leadership."
Smarter Communication
Getting curious, instead of furious, when conflict arises in your team, asking those causing disruption how they came to their conclusions and the personal significance of their opposition, writes communication specialist and author Leah Mether. Doing so fosters a sense of respect, allows the other person to feel heard and also increases the chance that they'll truly hear your response, Mether writes.
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Put it into practice: When you allow another person to tell you their perspective, it can open up a whole new level of understanding between you and can show them that you care about their opinion, even if you disagree, Mether writes. "Acknowledging the other person's perspective and offering nuanced counterpoints contributes to a more constructive dialogue."
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Create new habits by starting slow and small
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Setting and reaching new goals requires some strategizing, such as habit stacking, where you add the new habit you want to develop to something you already do, such as exercising while watching television or counting even the slightest progress toward your new goal, such as a five minute run to build up to 30 minutes, writes JiJi Lee. "If we truly want to succeed and make these habits stick, we need to focus on tiny results and inchworm progress," Lee writes.
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Daily Diversion
An underwater shot of an alpine newt dining on frog eggs in a German stream won Hungarian photographer Tibor Litauszki the top prize in the Close-up Photographer of the Year contest. Other top images include wild poppies and tiarella flowers frozen in ice, a dragonfly skating on the surface of a pond and the intricate face of a damselfly covered in dew.
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About The Editor
Candace Chellew
Candace Chellew
I am not a natural-born leader. I like to allow others who are more extroverted and sure of themselves to take the lead. I convinced myself that I wasn't "leadership material," whatever that means.

When I founded my spiritual community (from which I am now retired) 14 years ago, I felt like I had been tossed into the deep end of the leadership pool. I can look back over those years and see where I led poorly (I didn't know how to delegate) and where I led wisely (making moves that kept us alive as a small community and helping people grow spiritually). I had on-the-job training, but what I learned was, as Adam Grant points out, that everyone can learn leadership skills.

I learned how to toggle between what Grant calls "concrete" skills (that can get you to overthink things) and "abstract" skills (that can help you move forward in times of uncertainty).

If you're looking to develop leaders in your organization, just about anyone can fit the bill, Grant reminds us. It's in how we develop those leaders, tailoring training to suit each leader instead of a "one-size-fits-all" training program. Training is just the first step, though. Giving new leaders a chance to put their skills into practice and make mistakes so they can learn is also crucial. It's also vital to support your new leaders so they avoid burning out, as Zándra Bishop notes.

New leaders are everywhere in your organization. The key to their success is in the training you create for them.

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