Three Essential Principles for New Leaders to Thrive

By K&R Managing Director Patrick Fitzgerald

Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off and you have just been hired to lead an organization or business unit. Naturally there will be the traditional welcoming emails, congratulatory comments on LinkedIn and the incredibly important listening tour where you meet your team members. Now what?

The role of business leader can take on many forms depending on the nature and status of the organization when you join. This “uniqueness of the situation” can quickly take leaders off in different directions as they attempt to address the critical issues that are impacting their business. However, regardless of the nature of the business, there are three key principles every new leader should focus on to ensure they quickly establish themselves and set their organization up for success.

The first principle is to set a clear vision for your organization. This “north star” will be the goal that everyone in the organization is striving to achieve. Too often, leaders provide a vague or confusing vision that can lead to a stew of priorities, causing a lot of activity but little productivity. Examples include “win in the marketplace” or “improve profitability.”  Both are a good start but require the leader to dig deeper to define how each will be measured. Give a specific goal for your vision so that there is no confusion and everyone has the same definition of success.

The second principle is to communicate the vision to the entire organization. If you ask any leader what their vision is, they will tell you. The better question is to ask employees three layers down in the organization if they know what the vision is. Afterall, they are the ones implementing it.

This starts by taking your original version of the vision and sharing it with your leadership team to get their reaction. Providing them with an opportunity to understand the rationale for the vision and provide their feedback will allow them to feel like they have played a part in developing it. This is instrumental when it comes to execution as people support what they help create. Additionally, each leader can begin to see the role that their department will play in facilitating the delivery of the vision. Now for the hard part: Ask employees across various departments if they know what the vision is and how their daily activities are helping to  support that vision. This is where you will learn how well you have communicated the vision. When successful, it becomes a tremendous multiplier for any organization by breaking down silos, increasing collaboration and improving autonomy because everyone is working towards the same goal. This  empowers employees and creates a proactive culture focused on holistic organizational performance.

Lastly, every new leader must be authentic. It is presumed that leaders have the technical skills or understanding needed to run their organizations, but what is equally important is their ability to genuinely connect with members of their organizations. This requires a unique mastery of the soft skills. Leaders need to know when to be empathetic to their teams while still being  firm / decisive on the difficult issues. They need to balance the needs of the employees versus the needs of the organization, and they need to continuously embrace and exemplify the values of the organization. All this, while being true to themselves.

Taking on a leadership role within an organization is an exciting – and likely stressful time – in anyone’s career. By adhering to these principles of vision, communication, and authenticity, new leaders can lay a solid foundation for their organizations, inspire their teams, and navigate the challenges of leadership with confidence.