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My Daughter's First Leadership Job

By Mark Busine

Mark Busine

My daughter started university this year studying business with a major in event management. This has been her career aspiration for quite some time and I was thrilled when she managed to secure a part-time job with a local function centre as an event coordinator.

The first few months went very well. She was quickly immersed in the role and found herself taking on more and more responsibility. Her manager was full of praise for her efforts and contributions, and she quickly built positive working relationships with peers and other members of the team. She was loving her work and gaining great experience that was also helping with her studies.

My Daughter's First Leadership JobAbout a month ago she came home from her shift and informed me that she had been asked to take on more responsibility and lead a team. How great! Her manager had recognised her drive and identified qualities that she believed would set her up for a leadership role. As both a parent and a practitioner in the field, I was naturally proud.

But then I saw the fear in her eyes. While she was obviously thrilled to receive the recognition, I could tell from her reaction that the change to first-time leadership filled her with significant doubt and anxiety.

It reminded me how tough that first leadership transition can be. From managing former peers to motivating others, the emotional transition that one experiences is often more difficult than building the requisite skill set. While a promotion is often a reward for having been a successful individual contributor, we often underestimate the significant personal impact of this change.

Transitions occur at all levels along the leadership pipeline, and the one thing we should never underestimate is the personal transition that individuals go through as they move from one level to the next. Our research shows that a transition to a leadership position is among life’s most challenging adjustments, ranking up there with personal illness and major life events. In fact, in a DDI study of leadership transitions, only one in three leaders felt they were effective at handling the challenges associated with a new leadership role.

For first-time leaders the stress associated with these transition challenges can be particularly acute. And, for a 19 year-old with little work experience, it can be terrifying. The transitional challenges at the front line take many forms, but typically include:

  • Relinquishing responsibility and getting things done through others
  • Directing and coaching former peers
  • Increasing personal commitment to the company and its goals
  • Achieving both individual (personal) and team results
  • Directing team activities (vs. individual activities)
  • Representing the team

In terms of resources, my daughter was lucky. She was able to leverage one of DDI’s latest publications, Your First Leadership Job (personally endorsed by the authors, DDI CEO, Tacy Byham and DDI Senior VP, Rich Wellins), as well as her own personal coach—me!

This close-to-home experience was a reminder that leadership is a human endeavour, but too often we treat leadership as a “thing” that others do. We talk about leadership in terms of accountabilities and responsibilities but forget that, behind every leadership role is a person who is trying to do their best in an environment of changing expectations and uncertainty. It has also reminded me that as leadership development practitioners, we have been presented with a wonderful gift—the opportunity to play a central role in preparing better leaders for all domains of life.

As for my daughter’s success, it’s probably too early to call, but I am committed to helping her make her way through this exciting transition. She will find few rewards in her career that are greater than those offered at the start of her leadership journey. What she learns now will transform the rest of her life in many wonderful ways.

Mark Busine is Managing Director for DDI Australia.

Posted: 21 Nov, 2016,
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