From Colleague to Team Lead – Navigating the Challenges of Promotion in a Relationship Culture

For the past two years, Amanda had enjoyed working in an administrative personnel role alongside five other colleagues. Recently, her supervisor resigned and after a few days of deliberation, Amanda was appointed as the successor. A few weeks into her new role, Amanda’s manager noted a drop in her performance and found that a major challenge she faced was a reluctance to lead her peers who were now under her authority. Instead of being viewed as a leader, Amanda’s subordinates were still treating her as an equal and not taking her leadership seriously.

As most promotions tend to occur internally within the organization, it may be common to find yourself in a similar position as the example above. When you started your new leadership assignment, did you worry about how you were going to cope as a manager or how your subordinates were going to treat you? Did they think that from being “one of us” (staff), you are now “one of them” (managers) and kept you at a distance? Or did they find it hard to respect you as a manager? As a Malaysian, how do you balance the responsibility of managing the team while still maintaining the good relationship you enjoy with your colleagues who are now reporting to you?

Recognize and accept the change in hierarchy. Malaysian subordinates tend to view their managers as individuals with higher authority, so they would likely prefer the company of those from the same rank. A promotion results in a change to hierarchy, so there is going to be a relationship change as you move into a leadership role. A great tip is to recognize and accept the responsibility you have now been given to lead (which sometimes involves directing and instructing people) your team and ensure company objectives are successfully met. Your confidence in assuming your leadership role will show your team that you are dependable. They will be able to trust that you are the right person to carry on the task with minimal transition downtime. While you can maintain the same level of trust and good relations, it is not necessarily possible, in a typical Malaysian context, to maintain the exact same relationship you had with your team.

Implicit Leadership Theory. Everyone has a preconceived idea of what makes a good leader. It might be practical for you to list down the qualities, values and characteristics that you and your team appreciate in a leader. Perhaps you think your team prefers a leader who sits back and allows the team to make decisions, but in reality, they might prefer a strong leader who is able to direct and decide on matters quickly. When you identify the gaps in understanding, you can then build a strategy containing ideas that would work well for the team and at the same time allow your individual growth towards becoming a global leader. 

Leadership training and development. Many feel that a person will naturally grow into their position of leadership, but that is often a mistaken viewpoint. Lack of leadership skills can easily result in anxiety, stress and low morale in the workplace. As most companies will have an allocated budget for training, actively seek out programs that are designed to develop your abilities and skills to successfully manage your stakeholders, management team, own workload, and the different personalities and needs of your team.

As you progress in your career, effective leadership skills become an important aspect to cultivate, maintain and later on impart to people under your care and direction. We offer an effective leadership training program tailored to managing in a Malaysian cultural context, which can help you achieve success as a global leader.

By: Boleh Blogger