One of the incomparable sensations of any Leader’s quest for achievement is the realization that his toiled unbreakable determination has prevailed through difficulties and overwhelmed impediments to finally grasp a triumph which becomes recognized and honored with the bequeathment of a Promotion.  In this moment his chest lifts and his eyes gaze onward to the promise of a brighter future.  Proudly he carries the “fruit of his labor” home and celebrates his exhilaration with his family.  It is a time of jubilation which builds a sense of rising and evolving self-worth and value.

The determination of Promotions extends beyond sheer accomplishments and reflects additional dynamics such as character, values, fit, and potential Leadership facility.

Promotions are a culmination of what you have done, who you are and how much you can grow.  A Promotion validates you have “what it takes” to contribute to the company’s impending success.  This “whole picture” amalgamation of attributes often results in a promotion being awarded to someone other than the highest statistical performer of a group.  And therefore, as the freshly endorsed manager is reveling at home, some peers are congregating around their dining tables questioning and rebuking the verdict of upper management.  However contented and supportive they were as peers, the game has now transformed and the newly anointed one begins all over again, trying to prove himself as their new Leader.

Managing former peers is one of the most difficult encounters in a Leader’s career.  Whether a front line position or breaking into the C-Level, he must now lead the group that he has been a part of.  They have seen him bare, candid, and imperfect.  He must be prepared to encircle the uncomfortable and problematic challenge of power if he is to effectively cultivate this new station of leadership among his peers.

My first leap into this abyss remains crystal clear in my mind.  At 17 years of age, I began working loading trucks in the shipping department and managed to pick up slightly better tasks as my drive and ethic was detected.   One day my twentyish peers were submerged in a gossip involving our manger’s purported scandalous behavior.  With the scuttlebutt swelling, each professed their personal prophecies of the outcome.  On the first count, everyone had it exact as the manager was dishonorably relegated back to the group.  But their flapping jaws suddenly twisted to open mouth silence when our revered and crusty Transportation Director, Marvin Shultz, ordained me the new manager.  With Marvin’s iron-handed mentoring, I traversed through the initial scorn and doubt and began my initiation into managing my former peers.  Moving out from peers repeated itself often over the ensuing years as I climbed the corporate ladder and with each new promotion, I learned how to more adeptly master the next one.

If you find yourself in this position, Congratulations, “take a bow”, you have done well.  Next, immediately abandon any idealistic philosophies about how you might still be a part of the gang and how nothing has to change between you and them.  You are now their boss.  There are those who are exultant for you without necessarily acquiescing their validation, those who are covetous or distressed and those who just do not care.  Regardless of where they stand, Get over it!  As their boss you are there to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Your focus must shift to building a strong A-Team from within them.  It is not about keeping or making friends.  It is about creating results to further the goals of your company.  Your peers will not accept you as their boss until “you” accept that you are their boss.

The two most substantial recommendations I can make when leading former peers is to embark on your new relationship as a Tough Leader and carry yourself Quietly Bold.  You can always temper toughness as directives become effortlessly accepted and engaged by all.  But leniency in the hopes of being affable followed by an attempt to harden up later, when necessary, becomes a fool’s mission.  Disregard bravado and any urge for chest pounding.  A boisterous style will appear as if the power has gone to your head.  Ensure you are listening and discerning your new team’s reactions.  Focus on understanding and prioritizing your boss’s agenda.  Be unobtrusive, but do not yield to manipulations or intimidations.  Be bold enough to make decisions, take stands, and have honest conversations.  Set about your new relationships as tough, quiet and bold.

During your first 30 days as a new leader you must size up your team quickly and understand their dynamics and propensities towards you.  It is a common mistake to believe your friends will help you and your detractors will try and harm you.  There are many possible outcomes as your tenure progresses.  Friends can become quickly frustrated with your new obligations and can become very difficult to manage.  And prior skeptics may welcome the changes you are pioneering and get on board easier than you think.  You can categorize your team members into Supporters, Apathetics, and Dissenters who will be either weld influence or not.  Understanding how to use each group to your advantage is a key to early success. My experience is that 50% of your newly inherited group will not be with you in one year.

Sizing Up Your New Team

Once you have sized up your Team it is time for you to begin to take action.  By now, you should possess a vibrant passionate understanding of your boss’s goals and priorities and what he expects of you and your team to advance his purpose.  During your Start-Up Cycle your complete focus is to accomplish your boss’s short term objectives.  There will be abundant opportunity to initiate your own ideas and campaigns once you have built a “power base” with your boss.  The Start-Up Cycle delivers meaningful results to confirm that your benefactor made the right decision in spite of what he will be hearing from the “back door” Dissenters you are dealing with.

The Start-Up Cycle begins with communicating what needs to be executed with your Team and garnering their contribution as to how the task might be best accomplished.  Do not open the agenda to the mistake of asking the team “what should we do?”  Stick with your mandates and focus your discussion and efforts on “how” you are going to carry out your tasks.  This is a time to raise the expectations of your team, particularly from your Supporters.  Let them know you expect the very best they have to give in pursuit of the Team’s Goals.  Do not debate the task and kill any serious opposition if you are tested.  Be passionate about winning the issue.  With each footstep of improvement progress is multiplied and your power base is strengthened.  Repeating the Start-Up Cycle several times with different directives throughout your first six months will build a foundation of confidence with your boss.  This foundation will place you in a position to reward your Supporters, eradicate your Dissenters, and coerce Apathetics “off of the fence”.  From this position of strength you will be able to launch your own enterprises for the future advance of your team and career.

The first months of leading your former peers are a crucial time.  You are under close examination and scrutiny from above and beneath (not to mention your new peer group).  This is a time for self-improvement; for learning new things, absorbing new ideas, and demonstrating new skills. It is a time for you to dress better, think better, and be better.  You must conduct yourself as a leader, size-up your support, and demonstrate your ability to accomplish the important tasks which your boss has charged you with.  Place your feet squarely on the ground with purpose and determination void of manipulations from Friends and negotiations with Dissenters.  A Street Smart Leader rises above the tribulations of his former peer group and confidently looks forward to the future.

read more about “The Challenge for Your Authority


How You Recognize Them
Supporters believe that change is necessary and they possess the skills and the desire to help you accomplish your mission The apathetic are often considered harmless and ignored.  But these “fence sitters” are the hidden threat to your agenda.  They are waiting to see if you make it. The dissenters clearly wish to maintain the status quo by watching you fail in any way possible. They do not want to change … at least for your benefit.
Who They Are
Supporters of Influence are your biggest asset to generating change and creating success Fence Sitters of Influence detract commitment from others stealing valuable time and resources This group is Challenging Your Authority and will deliberately attempt to trip you up.
What They Say
“What wall do you want us to run through next?” “I’ve heard all this before.” “Why do I have to listen to you?”
How to Use Them
These Champions can get quick points on the board to validate your cause.  They set the standards for the group and make those “not on board” look obvious. The Apathetic must be pressured and confronted from the beginning.  Most will not have the guts to become dissenters and instead become Non-Influence Supporters These double threats must be identified quickly.  Within the first six months you will want to fire the ringleader of this group regardless of their importance. Play it smart and they will give you the opportunity
Who They Are
These Supporters are willing to quickly follow success and do their part. This group is not a threat, but they can suck the passion from a program. They will try and stay under the radar. These Dissenters are stifled by the ringleaders and are non-performers.  They believe you are not going to make it.
What They Say
“I think he has good ideas.” “Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” “I’ll do as little as I can to keep my job.”
How to Use Them
Keep these supporters closely in the loop and feeling a part of the team.  Do not spend too much time with this group they will follow. They are your “work horses”. At best this group becomes your “C-Players”. Begin to weed them out from the beginning and replace with Supportive Influencers. These misguided followers often helps make your best case for need to change.  To almost everyone they recognizably the “problem”.  With the ringleader fired this group quickly falls apart.  Eventually you will end up firing most of this group.