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A month ago I was promoted to team leader but truth to tell, I’m not acting as one. I’m not cut out to lead. This is why I have mixed feelings about this promotion. I continue to do what I have always been doing, afraid to lead my team of five people most of whom are my age mates and two of them slightly older than me. I don’t know how to be a team leader. What shall I do?

Reluctant Leader


Thank you for your honesty and for expressing your need for help. There are people like you who are thrust into leadership positions because of very good technical skills and high IQ. Because they don’t know how to lead a team, they withdraw from performing the role of a leader and continue to act as a “superworker”, like what you are doing now. Doing what you are doing is your comfort zone but you are not facing reality.

Newly promoted people like you are assumed to have EQ (Emotional Quotient) skills as well, and to learn to lead by doing. They are not given coaching and provided with an opportunity to participate in a leadership development and training program. I suggest that you ask your own team leader (a.k.a your boss) if there is an opportunity for you to attend a leadership development program and to receive coaching. Ask him/her; do not assume there is or there is none

To your credit, I am quite sure that those who decided to promote you saw leadership potentials in you. Be grateful, not fearful, for this privilege of being chosen to lead five people

I believe that if you have a strong desire to be a successful team leader, you can learn to be one. Basic leadership skills can be learned. The knowledge, attitudes, values and skills to influence people to achieve the goals of a team which in turn, contribute towards higher-level goals, can be learned.

The first thing you do is to be clear about the mission of your team, i.e., what its purpose is. Know what your boss expects of your team and by when, what he expects of you as its leader. From your role, you can define the role of each member of your team depending on their capabilities.

Second, know the EQ competencies required to lead a team.  To do this requires first of all, self-awareness of your strengths and areas for improvement as a leader.

I strongly suggest you invest in a good book on leadership and/or surf the internet to know the qualities and the skills of a good leader. Write these down and rate yourself from 0 to 5 with 0 indicating you don’t have it, 3 is average, and 5 you have it to a great extent. Be honest in rating yourself. Have someone who knows you very well validate your self-ratings and to point out critical incidents when you showed the characteristic and skill.

Examples of skills of a good leader are the following:

  • Attentive listening to understand what the other person is saying;
  • Speaking assertively to be understood;
  • Conducting/facilitating team meetings;
  • Monitoring performance;
  • Giving positive feedback;
  • Giving correction assertively;
  • Coaching;
  • Etc.

This process you will use will not only heighten your self-awareness of your strengths and areas for improvement, but will also enhance your self-confidence. Self-confidence is very important for a leader so that you can feel good about yourself. This self-esteem is exhuded in your dealings with your team members, inspiring confidence in you.

Self-awareness is the first dimension in learning EQ competencies. The second dimension is self-management. This means that you actually practice these skills on a day-to-day basis as you interact with your team members and with people in other teams with which you interact. Each time you are able to use the skill, give yourself a “pat on the back” to enhance your self-confidence.

The third dimension in learning EQ competencies is social awareness i.e., your being sensitively aware of the needs, feelings and values of other people, especially of your team members. By observing their behaviors, by talking and listening to them, and by assessing their performance you will be able to know how they feel and what their development needs are.

One important mindset (or paradigm) which shapes a leader’s attitudes, values and behaviors, is to see him/herself as a steward of the company. A steward is a capable person entrusted with the assets of the owner (i.e., your company) and he/she has the responsibility to increase these assets. You and your team members are the human assets of your company. As a steward, you have the responsibility to develop and improve yourself and your team members so that you become increasingly productive and valuable to your company

The fourth dimension of EQ is social skills. This refers to the skills you use to influence the performance of your team members. Examples of these are assertive communication skills; performance management skills which include setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound) goals, monitoring performance; giving effective feedback; negotiation skills; coaching; etc.

I hope the above will serve as a part of your Team Leadership 101 course to get you started on the road to effective team leadership

God Bless you.


Josie Santamaria