Cultivating Tomorrow's Leaders | Leadership Training | Wilson Learning Worldwide

Cultivating Tomorrow's Leaders

5 Questions Every New Leader Must Address

Five Questions For New Leadership

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It is an interesting career move to go from the individual contributor ladder over to the management ladder. Typically, the reason those tapped to step into leadership is because of their expertise as an individual contributor—they are the high-performers, the top-producers. The move over to the first rung of management can be daunting because now, for the first time for many, the skills of the fittest that ensured their survival at the top are no longer as necessary nor are they sufficient to fit the bill of the expectations surrounding their new role in leadership.

So how important is it that we best equip new leaders with a secure footing as they begin their career in management? Consider the tremendous influence on organisational success this population of front-line managers has as they are closest to the workforce. In many aspects, they are the company to their employees. They are a group that is vitally important, highly visible and carry a real impact on organisational success or failure. For front-line leaders, not only developing core leadership skills, but also cultivating the "why" they are using those core skills can improve employee retention and engagement, foster positive work relationships and encourage continuous professional growth.


Let's start with the mindset potential of new managers, which in part reverts back to the survival skills that served them well as an individual contributor; this sounds like, "I am in control, I have all the answers, and I need to get the job done. And now, I am being held accountable for the output or productivity of my work unit."

Can you hear a potential problem with this mindset stepping onto the leadership ladder?

The "manager as doer" is not sustainable because, as a leader, they are often no longer the one who does the producing as they once did as an individual contributor. The fact is, producers have ultimate control over the output and therefore the shift in the leader's mindset needs to be: "Rather than trying to manage the output, my role is to create the conditions that will influence my direct reports to be more responsible and accountable for the output. My challenge is how to empower my direct reports to believe and behave as if they own their goals, are accountable and are responsible for achieving organisational goals and strategies."

As a result, focusing on influencing conditions, instead of trying to control the output, becomes their priority. New skills are needed to empower and unleash people's energy through providing:

  • Clear expectations
  • Accurate and relevant information
  • Consistent and reliable support

Research suggests that when associates are clear and confident about these conditions, their performance and output increase.


At a high level, Wilson Learning defines five questions that provide a tactical focus for leaders to address for their teams:


This question points to the strategy and goals of the organisation. Front-line leaders provide the connection from the high level goals and corporate strategy to the work unit level, and what they mean for them.

This question helps the individual understand the goals and objectives for which they will be held accountable. The answer to this question should clearly link how their personal goals support the organisational direction and success.

This question begs for relevant information and frequent feedback about direct reports' performance. This question addresses the underlying need for reassurance that they are doing a good job, their work is valuable and what, if any, adjustments are needed.

The answer to this question is about recognition and fulfilment. All employees want to know that their contribution is valued by the organisation—and specifically by the manager—since often, the manager is the organisation to his or her associates.

The answer to this question addresses the individual's need for support and safety. All team members need to know not only where they can go for help if they need it, but also that there are not negative implications in asking for help.

1. Meeting Leadership Challenges: Leading for Performance, Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc.

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About the Author
Tom Roth

Tom Roth

Tom Roth is Chief Operating Officer of Wilson Learning Worldwide and President of Wilson Learning Japan. With more than 40 years of experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions, Mr. Roth is responsible for the strategic direction and business performance of Wilson Learning Worldwide operations. In addition, he leads the global marketing services and R&D solutions group, which is responsible for the research and development of all solutions and position papers. Mr. Roth assists global executive leadership teams with issues related to employee engagement, leadership development, strategy alignment, and business transformation. Before assuming his current role, he was President of the global R&D and solution development groups and also served as President of Wilson Learning Americas.

Mr. Roth has extensive experience developing and implementing human performance improvement solutions. He is coauthor of the book Unplugged: How Organisations Lose Their Energy and How to Get It Back, coauthor of the book Creating the High-Performance Team, and is published in numerous business publications. Mr. Roth is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and client events, presenting on a wide variety of issues including leadership, employee engagement, change, and strategy implementation.

Read more by Tom Roth

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