5 Crucial Steps for New Leaders

The following is a guest post by Selma Wilson. Selma is one of the vice presidents of LifeWay, leading our B&H Publishing Group. I am honored to serve alongside Selma and consider her to be an incredible leader. 


Congratulations on your new leadership role. Whatever the process that got you to this point, and no matter the emotions you are currently experiencing (excitement, stress, fatigue, insecurity), you are the leader. Everyone is looking to you to cast vision, make decisions, step up and lead. So where do you go from here? Whether this is your first leadership role or your tenth, here are a few first steps I have found to be helpful:

1. Develop an Intentional Plan.

For the first day, week, month, and the first 90 days you will need a plan. (The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels by Michael Watkins is valuable resource I recommend.) It’s critical that you establish your leadership quickly. You don’t have to accomplish all of your leadership objectives in this time frame, but you need to establish your leadership voice, presence, and style.

2. Establish Your Leadership Voice.

The people you lead need to hear from you immediately after you are named leader. In the first 90 days, you need to establish how you will communicate and how often. I have found a mix of communication forums are best to allow for the diversity of preferences of the team. Live addresses, regular emails, and informal conversations while walking around are all important. You are the leader and your team needs to hear from you on a regular basis. Silence is deadly; you can’t give your leadership voice away to others. Be yourself, use your voice, express your style, and be authentic. Get comfortable being you.

3. Cast Mission and Vision.

It’s your job to cast the vision for your team and to keep the vision in front of your team at all times. Mission and vision provide the guardrails for your team. It’s how you make decisions critical for success. One of the greatest dangers of any organization is wasting energy and resources on actions not in line with your mission. So one of the best tools you can give your team is the clarity to say “no” as they make day-to-day decisions. It’s OK to go through a season to assess your mission, getting input from the team and others. If you chose that path, let your team know about it and share the process you will use for assessment and input. Also, let them know the timeline. It’s important that you clarify mission and vision quickly so you can lead your team forward.

4. Get to Know Your Team.

In your first 90 days, your team needs to be a priority. A great deal of your leadership energy will need to be given externally, but your first priority is getting to know your team. A few things I’ve done include a deep dive into the history of the team, reviewing organizational charts, examining team structure, taking employee surveys and hosting listening sessions. It’s important to let your team know what you’re doing to get to know them. The time you spend learning will be of great value to you as you make decisions for the future.

5. Love Your People. Personally.

I think you have no equity to lead unless you love the people you lead. To love them, you need to know them and the work they do. That requires spending time with them, actively listening and actively learning. Be honest with them. If changes are coming, let them know and let them know why. The mission of your team is carried out through the people your lead. One of the greatest rewards and blessings of leadership is the joy of knowing and working alongside the people you lead. Welcome to leadership! I pray God will work through you and your team in powerful ways, and you’ll find great joy in your leadership. Our team prays this passage over our work and it’s my prayer for you and your team: “Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands – establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:17 HCSB).

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