Let’s face it, leading a team of people is not easy. You work hard, you get promoted, your new role and job title is nice and shiny and then reality hits — you’ve become a dumping ground for people’s issues, problems and challenges.

Don’t get me wrong, those who embrace leadership roles can have wonderfully fulfilling, meaningful careers, but it is certainly not all it’s cut out to be. And it takes constant effort to grow as a leader.

Sadly we continue to see poor leader selection and then very little provision of support to really help them really grow and prosper. So based on leadership being so tough, maybe it’s no surprise that employees are feeling dissatisfied with leadership capability across most industries and companies.

In our Firebrand Talent Ignition Report, a survey of over 1200 digital creative and marketing Talent, “poor leadership” is the number one reason as to why people are leaving companies — ahead of salary, poor morale, lack of company vision and bad culture.


And if you take a look at the alarmingly high number of digital marketing and creative employees that are seriously looking to leave their role in the coming 6 months (52% on average)… you could say the time is nigh to stem the bleeding that faces companies today.

Are you seriously considering leaving your role in the next 6 months?

A person can be strong leader from a business strategy and customer engagement standpoint, but it is the craft of engaging people on a journey, harnessing their energy and creating vision that people buy into, that is most challenging.

Let’s face it, people are complex and therefore there lies part of the challenge.

Not all people are one and the same. They’re all individuals that are motivated by different things, require different communication styles and have varying levels of human and technical skills.

And based on all of this, the first thing that I believe a great leader needs to have is a love for people. When I say ‘love’, I am not talking about some romantic notion. I am talking an authentic curiosity in developing deep relationships with people and understanding how and what intrinsically motivates them.

To address this issue, I do feel that those hiring and/or promoting people into leadership roles AND those stepping into these leadership roles both have the opportunity to fix this problem. With some more mindful focus on the issue, I reckon we can bridge the gap when it comes to leadership capability and employee satisfaction. So below I have outlined some tips for both parties:

5 essential tips when promoting people into leadership roles

  1. The best ‘leaders’ are generally not your top performers. Don’t confuse strong technical and/or industry knowledge and assume as a result that the individual will have the people skills to create cohesion and momentum.
  2. Be curious when an employee expresses desire to step into a leadership role. What are their motivations? And if it has anything to do with money, ego or being bored in their current role, don’t do it! Look for motivators such as helping others grow.
  3. Be clear in your own head about what ‘human’ skills make a great leader in your environment
  4. Be prepared to coach every day — leadership skill can be developed, but not without constructive feedback and direction.
  5. Provide incubated opportunities for someone to test their leadership capability — it’s good for them, and you!

5 key things to remember for those stepping into leadership roles

  1. Be prepared to work at it — EVERY DAY. Developing people leadership skills is a lifelong pursuit. There is no silver bullet such as that one great course that will transform you into a great people leader. So stop looking for it.
  2. Practice daily/weekly reflection techniques — having the ability to reflect on situations and work through different scenarios on how you could have handled these better is key to growing as a leader.
  3. Become a prolific ‘life-learner’ — being open to learning new things through reading, webinars, conferences, ‘meet-ups’ and reflection. I think the best leaders focus on 5-8 hours of focused learning time every week!
  4. Develop acute ‘self-awareness’ — how does your communication style and behaviours impact others around you. How are people responding — verbally and non-verbally?
  5. Identify mentor and/or coaches. Leadership is lonely and you need support outside of your direct manager. Having access to mentors that you respect can provide a great sounding board. But select carefully. You want someone who has solid people management capability and you know will challenge your view/opinion.

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Leading people is hard work, but can be so rewarding if you are prepared to work at it. And remember having great people leaders will turn into your number one talent acquisition and retention strategy!