It is often challenging to maintain relationships when moving to a new leadership role. Suddenly, your colleagues see you in a new light, you have become “the boss”. Unfortunately, this perspective can come with baggage. Your colleagues may feel that they can no longer speak openly with you, express their concerns honestly, or even have fun around you. People may feel that they have to exercise caution when interacting with you, unsure how to approach you in this different type of relationship.

Things have changed. However, it is possible to transition from being a colleague to a leader while maintaining existing relationships. In reality with the right approach these relationships can actually grow and flourish during this change. Ways of interacting may need to shift, nevertheless, it is important for everyone to know that you as a leader are the same person as you were as a colleague.

The key to navigating this change is to be clear on your own values, demonstrate integrity, and communicate your commitment to your work and the team. Your role as a leader is to support your colleagues during this transition by modeling inclusiveness through genuine humility, trust, and transparency.

  • Humility- Demonstrate humility by listening more than you speak. Be open to, and ask for, feedback. Given the opportunity your colleagues will offer their guidance and support. Show your appreciation of this support and of the existing relationships.
  • Trust- Recognize and communicate the mutual importance of the contributions of the team. Trust the strengths of the team to get the work done. Value these contributions. People are more likely to perform when they trust that their opinions, innovations, and hard work are valued. 
  • Transparency- Openly voice to your team that you are learning in your new role, and learning as a leader. Demonstrate vulnerability by willingly sharing your missteps, and the knowledge and skills that you are learning from them. There is a learning curve when transitioning to a leadership role, so ask for input from your team. 

When transitioning from colleague to a leader it is important that existing relationships are valued and strengthened. Inclusiveness will reassure your colleagues that you are still the same person and empower them to continue to collaborate effectively.