Three Ways New Leaders Can Find Their Voice

Lindsay Scott also shares tips for looking beyond the job title and how to navigate stay interviews.

I was just promoted to lead a team, but I don’t have any leadership experience. How can I build my confidence quickly?

There are three things you—or any new leader—should think about.

First, study the leadership culture at your organization. Doing so will reveal how your company expects you to lead a team. Talk with other team leaders or your manager to make sure your leadership goals and objectives align with the organization’s culture and structure.

Next, get introspective. How do you define leadership? Are there any leadership theories or models that you ascribe to? If not, start reading leadership books and articles from a range of sources.

Finally, determine the leadership characteristics you want to embody. Make sure they align with your values and ethics so others see you as an authentic leader. Ask yourself: “What do I want the people who I’m leading to think about me? What behaviors will they see from me?” Make a list of the good and bad traits you’ve seen from leaders around you, then focus on modeling the behaviors you appreciate the most.

Leadership is like any other skill—there’s always room for continuous improvement. Ask your peers and direct reports for constructive feedback. As you identify weak spots in your leadership, join a training program or seek out a few coaching sessions to hone those skills. Building an external network can help you find your voice and style.

Give yourself time to grow. Evolving through trial and error will help you absorb the moments of imposter syndrome. If you take time to reflect and learn from success and failure, you’ll mature as a leader.

I'm seeing a lot of job postings that don't have "project manager" in the job title. Is that a red flag?

Job titles alone never tell the whole story. There are many job titles in project management because there are lots of different roles. Reading the job description will make it clear if the role and responsibilities are truly about project management.

The salary can also indicate the type of role—the higher the pay, the more likely the job will have more accountability and complexity. Typically, roles with less experience required will use words like assistant, lead and coordinator rather than manager.

Titles also vary by industry and by the type of approaches project teams apply. For instance, as more organizations use agile or hybrid, titles like ScrumMaster are becoming interchangeable with project manager. Or when an organization is looking to fill a role that requires a specific skill, such as risk management, hiring managers might tailor the title to attract only candidates with that experience.

Hybrid roles are also becoming increasingly common, with job titles reflecting that trend. It could be a business analyst with project management responsibilities or a change manager who needs to demonstrate project management experience. In those cases, a title will reflect the depth and versatility of the role.

Bottom line: If the job description aligns with your experience and skills, apply for the role—no matter what the job title says.

My company is conducting stay interviews. How should I prepare?

I’ve been hearing about stay interviews for years, and more organizations are using them to retain top talent amid the Great Resignation. But convincing people to stay isn’t the main objective for all organizations. Sometimes, stay interviews are used for just the opposite—to assess who should go as part of staff reductions. Finding out the real purpose of the meeting will help you prepare questions—and allow you to determine whether you should be excited or worried.

You can understand the organization’s true motives by talking with colleagues who have already had their interviews. Insights from those team members will also help you prepare responses to the questions managers will ask. Is there a chance for a new opportunity within the business, a pay raise or a promotion? If so, prepare to clearly state your expectations. If the organization truly sees you as a keeper, leaders will value your stay interview responses and use them to improve the organization and its culture.

Have a career question for Lindsay Scott? Email [email protected].

Lindsay Scott is the director of program and project management recruitment at Arras People in London.

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Have a career question for Lindsay Scott? Email [email protected]

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