Leadership 101: You’re the Boss — So Now What?

A KU toolkit for successful leadership.

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“Congratulations! You’ve been promoted to manager.”

When people hear these words, they can feel elated, terrified, proud and confused, all at once. One of the most difficult professional transitions anyone can make is becoming the boss, advancing from team member to supervisor or manager, especially if you become the boss of your former peers. But a big transition doesn’t have to mean a trial by fire.

With guidance on a few key elements of successful leadership, and a willingness to keep growing and improving, you can take on your new responsibilities with confidence. The need for growth and improvement does not stop at those new to a leadership role. All leaders and managers should hone their skills and grow in areas with room for improvement.

Try these ideas for navigating your new position and becoming the best leader you can be, building a strong and effective team, as well as developing a distinct leadership style that will help you advance your career.

Getting your management bearings

Unfortunately, there's no "owner's manual" for first-time supervisors and new managers. Effectively managing a team, making big decisions and navigating organizational change while maintaining momentum can be a daunting proposition. However, with a little guidance, you can quickly gain the skills you need in order to effectively step into a new leadership role. Discover tools for leadership success and how to make the transition to a management role with KU's New Manager Essentials course, a set of pre-recorded self-paced webinars led by Dr. Lee Stuart, leadership instructor at KU.

Overcoming resistance to change

As an incoming leader, your transition means change is happening in your organization. As you continue to grow in your role, you’ll likely be spearheading even more important changes, and helping your organization adapt at the speed of business.

Successful leadership in times of change requires effective strategy and communication, but also an understanding of psychology — helping you know how to best present and implement new ideas to team members with diverse perspectives.

Understanding individual identities

Most successful change management pivots on understanding what kind of change you’re implementing. Is it based on tasks? Relationships? Professional identities? Before you begin the process, identify this first. For example, if you ask a customer service representative who’s great at troubleshooting problems and handling questions to suddenly begin selling services to customers, that’s a fundamental identity change that could be a difficult psychological transition to make. Consider the effects of a large-scale structural change on the people you manage, and what you’re asking them to do.

Getting everyone on the same page

According to Gallup researchers David Leonard and Claude Coltea, 70 percent of all change initiatives fail because change agents overlook the role front-line managers play in the success of the initiatives. In many cases, managers who are tasked with implementing change programs are not ready themselves. They haven’t had the chance to consider the logistics involved in a larger evolution. As you enter your new role, make space for discussion with the people who’ll be putting your institutional changes in motion.

These suggestions, as well as others in KU’s one-day workshop Overcoming Resistance to Change can help you learn how to communicate new ideas and projects in a way that brings everyone on board. Read more about the workshop, and discover more ideas, in this blog post.

Understanding Emotional Intelligence

EQ, or emotional intelligence, refers to a person’s ability to understand how their emotions impact their own behavior, as well as their sensitivity towards others’ emotions. While practical intelligence helps you enter a career and perform specific tasks related to your job, EQ can emerge as a strong predictor of long-term success, because how well you handle yourself in relationships determines how well you’ll work with others in your career.

While IQ doesn’t change much over the course of your life, EQ can be improved as you learn to use it. According to Lee Stuart, “EQ can be developed through self-assessment, reflection and introspection, one-on-one coaching, and through a rewards or incentive system that places a premium on cooperation rather than on individual achievement.” Research shows that managers who undergo EQ training deliver twice the profits of the general management population, and employee engagement scores increase four times in emotionally intelligent work environments.

Find out how to measure your EQ with our blog post. Discover how to grow your EQ, and use it effectively, in Lee Stuart’s one-day workshop, Leading with Emotional Intelligence.

Building a Winning Organizational Culture

Thought leader Simon Sinek says that “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” Most organizations talk about the strength and power of their company cultures. Many leaders – with strategy, intent, and mindfulness – shape their organizational cultures to respond to the market, maintain employee engagement and foster community relationships.

Organizations with strong positive cultures outperform peer companies in the marketplace. Their employee engagement and retention measures are superior, and they are perceived by the communities in which they operate as excellent citizens. However, most organizational cultures don't “just happen.” Few people really understand how to bolster or re-make them. As an incoming leader, you can get to know your organization’s culture, and maybe even re-shape it.

Organizational culture exists at three levels:

·       Artifacts

·       Espoused values

·       Underlying assumptions

A deep understanding of these levels is necessary before lasting changes can occur. Artifacts are represented by company logos, business cards, apparel and branding icons. Values and assumptions are frequently invisible. You’ll have to dig in to examine them.

To find out more about organizational culture and how to support or reshape it, Check out the one-day workshop Building a Winning Culture, and discover more ideas in this blog post.

Delivering Effective Presentations

Once you’ve learned helpful communication and facilitating styles, it’s time to consider how to effectively communicate your game-changing ideas to your team. Research says that between 90 and 92 percent of what audiences remember about a presentation is based not on what was said, but how it was said. It’s important to strike the right balance between valuable content and dynamic delivery.

Here are a few key tips to creating memorable, effective business presentations:

1. Start with the end. 

What’s your closing takeaway? Start with that as your focus, and work backward. Without the end in mind, it’s easy to lose an audience with extraneous information that gets in the way of your main point.

2. Consider how you look and sound. 

It’s not just the format of your delivery that matters, but also how you present yourself. Lee Stuart, leadership instructor, suggests paying attention to your posture, vocal inflections and vocal variety, as well as making eye contact.  “Rest your eyes on individuals,” Stuart says. “Do not scan the audience.”

3. Come to a clear conclusion.

Make sure your audience knows that you’ve finished your presentation by concisely summing up your points and making a concluding statement, even if it’s nothing more than “This concludes my presentation.” Avoid an awkward stretch of silence by ensuring the end is in sight, for you and for your audience.

For more information on giving successful business presentations, read our blog, and check out the one-day workshop Say it Simply and Smartly.

Developing Your Leadership “Brand”

Good leaders attract talent and resources and retain high performing employees. Poor leaders, of course, have the opposite effect. How can you tell what leadership energy you’re projecting? Understanding your values and communication style and how you express that to others — your leadership “brand” — can help give you a set of rules to go by. Here’s how to identify and develop your own leadership brand, according to Lee Stuart:

1.     Keep it pithy.

Create a “brand statement” that sums up your leadership style in a couple of words. For example, Stuart says his brand is “benign contrarian.” “I’m going to challenge your assumptions, but never in a harmful way,” he says.

2.     Pay attention to what you do, not just what you say.

A leadership brand represents the total professional relationship you have with someone else, so consistency and reliability are key. Pay attention to how you react in different situations, how you interact with employees, and how you handle responsibility. How do your actions reflect — or fail to reflect — the face you’re trying to put forward?

3.     Remember, persistence pays off.

Whether you’re trying to change how others perceive your leadership brand, or building one from scratch, you’ll need to be committed to putting forth a consistent attitude, sticking to your values and keeping your goals in mind. As a leader, you’re being viewed and evaluated all the time — by employees, colleagues and your own supervisors. Be focused and consistent with how you present yourself.

See more ideas about developing your leadership brand on our blog, and register for the one-day Personal Leadership Brand workshop.


Learn more about the professional leadership certificate, or contact Lee Stuart, leadership instructor.

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