Learning Leadership


I remember when I was first promoted into a managerial role in a fairly large company.  I was suddenly the “boss”. My friends now worked for me.  

And I had no idea how to act like one.

I was filled with anxiety and questions.

How can I be the manager and preserve my friendships with my friends
How should I give feedback to a friend?
How do I hire people to complement the team?
How often do I need to meet with my team, and seriously, why do we need to have meetings?

… and so on.

It took me a few months, but I finally fessed up- admitted that I had no idea what I was doing and wondered if there was a book I could reference.

The response I received was memorable, “We learn by doing.  Sometimes you’ll make mistakes, other times you won’t.  You’ll learn.”

Yes, true-- I did learn over time.  A long time.  Though I wish that someone would have explained to me that while I was “learning”, my team was watching and I was losing impact and influence.

I love to golf, but I’m seriously lousy at it.  I tried to get better by going to the driving range-- I’m still lousy.  Then I realize, if you keep trying the same thing over and over again, without learning to do it right- don’t expect to get better.

Same thing applies for leading others.  You can keep practicing and just doing what you’re doing.  But you may learn the wrong things, or be unprepared when circumstances change.

Especially in a small company, it pays enormous dividends to pause, reflect, and intentionally lead.  

Maybe you’ve started a company and are now surrounded by other people who are making your dream a reality. Or you’ve joined a small and promising company, and are the “manager”-- getting work done through others during dynamic times.

So you’re the boss, now what do you do?

Leading others is a learned skill.  None of us pop out into the universe prepared to lead others.  

Leaders in small companies should take the time to learn by practice.  Learn the art of leading from others who have been there before you.

Find mentors.  Build a “personal board of directors”-- people outside of your company who have been there before and can give you candid and useful helpful in a safe way.  And seek out opportunities to learn in a safe “practice zone”.

Whether you realize it or not, in a leadership position you have a great deal of influence.  What you do with that influence is up to you.  You can choose to ignore it and hope that your planned stellar results speak for themselves, or you can choose to embrace the opportunity and prepare for it like it’s the challenge it is!


To learn more about how to ignite your leaders, visit our Management Development Program.


Catherine Malloy Cummings

20 N Upper Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL, 60606, United States