2020 | Issue 3

New Managers: Cultivate These Core Leadership Skills

New Managers: Cultivate These Core Leadership Skills

You finally earned a promotion to manager. But after the congratulations from colleagues and new business cards, it’s up to you to maximize this new role and grow into an impactful leader and respected colleague.

Here’s the thing about leadership though: It is a constant evolution. No great leader has ever fully arrived. The things you learn, the different people and situations you manage, and the many decisions and problems you confront are all contributors to your continued growth and success.
Many factors go into an individual’s success as a manager, but there are several traits that continually work together during your leadership journey. This column shares these important professional and interpersonal skills for growing into your new role.

Strategic Thinking & Project Management
A leader must be able to plan for the future while meeting today’s expectations. This strategic mindset involves setting priorities, supporting organizational goals, and evaluating progress and success. On a tactical level, diligent project management is important for leaders to keep their teams focused and aligned amidst multiple priorities and responsibilities. An organized leader will stay calm under pressure and keep others on track toward shared goals and objectives.

How do you grow these skills?

  • Focus on results – Concentrate time and energy on actions needed to move projects forward. Providing and receiving continuous feedback will help improve overall performance. Make sure to regularly review and assess results to detect gaps, inefficiencies, or roadblocks, as well as areas that are working well.
  • Manage time effectively – Prioritize work based on deadline and significance. Then, manage and set expectations with team members and internal and external clients. When making decisions, evaluate and understand the long- and short-term impacts (more on decision-making to follow).
  • Learn to delegate – Managers who delegate well empower others to grow in confidence and relevance. Delegation increases the amount of client deliverables and teaches team members how to think critically and ask the right questions to complete a task. Giving team members a direct role in successes leads to more engagement and collaboration around future projects and opportunities.

What success looks like: Managers who adopt a strategic mindset and develop strong project management skills will be able to evaluate a team’s capabilities, assign the right work to the right members, and keep everyone united around the broader vision of success. As issues or changes arise, the manager will be able to tackle them in a productive and timely manner and keep projects on track with routine updates and progress measurement.

Influence & Communication
The ability to influence others is vital to professional development. As you achieve higher levels of leadership, you will need to motivate others around a common goal and execute on decisions, big and small. This requires clear communication to get others to embrace the vision. Managers who achieve this skill will be able to make a positive impact on others through persuasion and engagement.

How do you grow these skills?

  • Develop organizational intelligence – There’s the official org chart and then there’s an informal structure. Embrace this multifaceted reality and work within organizational politics to advance initiatives. Strategic networking can help you hone this skill.
  • Promote yourself – It may seem selfish, but authentic and credible self-promotion can boost visibility for your team and initiatives, lead to greater collaboration, and enhance recognition of value.
  • Build a foundation of trust – When colleagues trust you, they are more willing to invest fully in a project or goal. Maintaining this trust is a balancing act between toughness and empathy. Push everyone to be their best, but remain sensitive to concerns and feedback.
  • Read the room – There are a number of different ways to influence others, including reason, inspiration, assertion, and collaboration. You may find that one suits you better overall, but you may need to tap into others depending on the personalities you are trying to motivate or situations you find yourself in.

What success looks like: Managers who successfully develop the skills of influence are savvy communicators who think strategically before responding and practice active listening while appealing to all team members. This manager is accessible to the team, clients, and prospects, and demonstrates gratitude for the contributions of others. As he or she earns credibility with other team members, they’ll be viewed as a leader and will more easily be able to rally others around organizational goals.

Problem-Solving & Decision-Making
Effective problem-solving is a powerful tool for managers. It allows them to lead teams toward success, reduce frustrations, foster collaboration, and encourage continuous improvement. Decisive and focused leaders have the ability to remain even-keeled in times of high stress and pay attention to detail, yet they are not closed off to new ideas or a different take.

How do you grow these skills?

  • Focus on the solution, not the problem – Not only does this approach reframe a challenge in a positive way, but it also helps leaders keep an open mind. Cultivate a habit of deep probing: think meticulously, take all angles into account, and be relentless in your pursuit of new information. Often, the solution is right there in front of us, so it’s important that managers recognize patterns in behavior or processes that are the crux of the issue.
  • Get out of your own head – Nobody knows it all. That simple statement is not revolutionary, but some don’t heed that truism and too often that is a roadblock to solving problems and making informed decisions. The strongest leaders are receptive to different perspectives and seek out opportunities to test their assumptions. This stems from a basic humility about leadership and a respect for the talents and insights of team members. Stay open-minded, curious, and engaged with your team members and colleagues. This mindset will allow you to stay nimble if circumstances around the problem or decision change unexpectedly.

What success looks like: Sometimes problems fly under the radar, so managers must ask substantive questions and keenly listen to responses to detect lower profile issues and isolate the root cause. A decisive leader invests the time to understand everyone’s concerns and welcomes feedback through brainstorming sessions. Keep in mind that being decisive does not mean making snap decisions; instead, strong problem solvers systematically think through facts, analyze the situation, and find an accurate and appropriate solution.

As new managers and emerging professionals consider the above skills, here is one final piece of advice: don’t go it alone. It is important to form trusted relationships that support your personal growth. Find a mentor in your firm who can be your sounding board, help you work through challenges, and offer advice and guidance. There’s no need for leadership to be lonely; more engagement and a continued openness to feedback will help you tap into your leadership abilities and fully embrace professional opportunities. t

Kathy Gutierrez, MSHRD, CPLP, PHR, is director of human resources for RKL LLP in Lancaster, Pa. She can be reached at

Reprinted with permission of the Pennsylvania Institute of CPAs.

This story appears in 2020 Issue 3 of the Nebraska CPA Magazine.

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