Unlocking Leadership Potential: Tom's Inspiring Journey from Skilled Developer to Effective Team Leader

What does it really take to lead a team?

This was the question that Tom had been asking himself all week. He was one month into his new role at his organization. He recalled how excited he had been to accept the responsibilities of a leader at first – but the last 30 days had turned his enthusiasm into confusion.

Tom was the most talented software engineer at ConnectCo – a natural computer wiz, a hard worker, and a creative problem solver. The industry-leading technology that had put the organization on the map was a product of all of its innovative employees, but much of it was implemented by Tom.

It did not take long for Tom to stand out to ConnectCo’s upper management. After Tom’s boss, Kayla, received a promotion, no one was surprised when he was their first choice to replace her.

No one, that is, except for Kayla.

“Of course, he’s a fantastic developer, and I want him to get his due recognition,” she had told management when they asked her, “but there is a difference between a great technician and a great leader.” They did not see it that way, so they promoted him as planned.

At first, Tom was thrilled. He couldn’t wait to guide his team into a record-setting era. But he was only a few days into his role before he started to feel like he was in over his head.

Despite all the time he had invested in becoming the greatest implementer at ConnectCo had not helped him develop his interpersonal skills. His feedback and direction confused his team members; he did not know how to motivate them to collaborate, and he wound up doing much of his old work “to make sure it was done right.”

Trust and morale were plummeting; people were frustrated, and results were at an all-time low. Tom sat, confused, tired, and overworked, and asked himself,

What does it really take to lead a team?

And he began to realize he may not know – but he did know someone who would.

The next day, he approached Kayla and asked for her to mentor him. She had the experience, the track record, and the desire to help that made her a perfect fit. And over the following months, Tom not only learned, but lived, what it takes to lead a team.

1. Establishing clear goals. A leader focuses the time, talent, intuition, and effort of their team members. If they are going to make progress, they must be united in their understanding of where they’re headed.

2. Effectively communicating. Leaders set the tone for their team. When leaders are honest and informative, team members understand that is the expectation for their organization.

3. Building trust and rapport. These are the starting point of a team member’s investment in the organization. When they know that their leader cares about them, they care about their role in return.

4. Delegating tasks. The word “delegate” may have a connotation but a healthy workplace cannot function without delegation. When leaders entrust tasks to their team members, it demonstrates not only that their leader trusts them, but that the leader knows their strengths and skills.

5. Fostering collaboration. Leaders know that teams are “better together” – teams can go farther, achieve greater, and impact more together than members could on their own, and it is the leader’s responsibility to create an environment that makes this possible.

6. Remaining engaged and actively involved with your team. Recognition shows your team that you acknowledge their performance, and feedback – both positive and constructive – shows them that you are invested in it.

Communication. Emotional intelligence. Empathy. These were the pillars that Kayla helped Tom build his leadership upon.

While he learned, ConnectCo empowered Kayla to handle the team management aspect of his role so that he could offer his team technical insights. But together, over the following months, they were not only able to restore the team’s trust and productivity, but improve it.

Every leader wonders what it takes to lead effectively. Unfortunately, promotions like Tom’s happen all the time in organizations all over the globe – the team loses a great technician and gains a struggling leader.

But the more time we invest in our interpersonal skills, the better prepared we become to empower anyone – regardless of our title.

That’s all for now,


P.S. Do you know a first-time leader who might be asking what it takes to lead? Feel free to send them this article to get them started on their journey!

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