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Advice for new leaders: the importance of a collective approach

Terry Frost, Mono Spirals for Yellow, Flowers Gallery

The difficulty of taking on a new leadership role is discussed in Harvard Business Review by Mark E. Van Buren and Todd Safferstone.

Describing what they term the "quick wins paradox", the authors explain how many leaders taking on new roles attempt to prove themselves as soon as possible by seeking "quick wins – fresh, visible contributions to the business".

However, in the process, they can fall into traps that undermine or negate the benefit of their achievements.

A study of over 5,400 leaders found that five behaviours were exhibited by those overly concerned with achieving quick wins. These were:

  • Focusing too much on details
  • Reacting negatively to criticism
  • Intimidating others
  • Jumping to conclusions
  • Micromanaging their direct reports

To guard against the quick win paradox, the authors recommend concentrating on collective quick wins.

"If you are a manager making the transition to a leadership role," they explain, "quick wins should not be about your personal scoreboard or pet projects but about your management of a group of individuals. A focus on collective quick wins ensures that your work as a leader is a success."

To effectively score a collective quick win, Van Buren and Safferstone suggest:

  • Making people believers, not bystanders – enlist the team in your success.
  • Understanding uncertainty – don't underestimate the anxiety that your appointment creates for those reporting to you.
  • Showing humility – seek your team's guidance as they work with you.
  • Learning about your team – find out about people's strengths, weaknesses and motivations as well as the dynamics of the group.

The Quick Wins Paradox
Mark E. Van Buren and Todd Safferstone
Harvard Business Review