Taking the Leap From Manager to Leader

By Barb McAllister

Supporting managers navigating the transition to leader is a key part of my work, and one I deeply enjoy. Going from Manager to Leader was a journey I took myself during my career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). For me, leadership was mostly self taught, and I learned about it through experiences, from some of the very gifted employees I managed, and from consultants we hired. What I now realize is that great leaders are masters of direct communication, curiosity, deep listening and empowerment.  In other words, great leaders are masterful coaches!

It sounds simple enough, yet taking the leap from manager to leader isn’t always easy, particularly if you’ve grown up in an organization that values hierarchy and chain of command. Certain behaviors — that might have been helpful as managers — such as telling and directing, need to be shed as new skills are practiced and learned.

I was a good leader at EPA, mostly by virtue of my personality, persistence, and openness to learning.   But I wasn’t great. I can see that now that I am a master coach. I could have been more curious rather than thinking I had to have the answer.    I could have allowed more space for others to step up rather than always being in the limelight.   I could have been more of an accountability partner rather than an accountability police woman. I could have spent more time listening deeply to people rather than pushing for results.

I used to think that it was “hard” to be a great leader and a great coach. I’ve really shifted my perspective on this.  I’ve learned that both coaching and leadership are easy, especially for someone like me that genuinely enjoys helping others to be their best self and to make a contribution that feeds their soul and spirit.

Transitioning these skills often takes time, as we practice releasing the old to embrace the new. This is why so many in this transition rely on coaches to help them navigate this time. To assist with your own transition from Manager to Leader, contact Barb for a consultation.


Do We Hear Context? Can You Hear The Meaning Behind The Words?