For some it is an adrenaline rush filled with purpose and excitement. For a select few it's effortless and easy. For others, it's that moment when you suddenly become aware of your own breathing, when your heart starts beating so fast that you feel like your chest will explode. It's the tingling feeling of pins and needles as you start to lose blood from your hands and feet. Or, it's the hard lump in the back of your throat as you try to swallow. Everyone at some point in their lives will be asked to be a leader. Whether it is leading a group discussion or assuming a management role, we will all be called upon to assume a position of influence over others. For some it is a comfortable process but for others it is a fear provoking challenge. Regardless of how we feel, we will all be called to the task. Therefore, it is essential for all people to learn effective ways to prepare themselves to lead.

I spent years as a front line worker operating in low profile leadership roles; running meetings, leading group discussions and at times facilitating workshops, but I will never forget my angst when I started my first job as a new manager. I awoke two hours early and I hummed and hawed over what to casual, formal dress, hair up or down? I questioned myself… did I learn as much as I could about the organization? Will the staff like me? How early is too early? Can I really do this...?

I rushed out the door, heals clicking with each step. I did a few deep breathing exercises in the car and I finally arrived at the office. Luckily, I was greeted with lots of smiling faces and endless introductions. I was left alone to settle into my new office, policy and procedure manual at hand... God how I wished there was an instruction manual on how to "lead the charge". I started reading the manual and awaited my "formal" training to begin. Instead, I was met with a light knocking at my door. My direct manager provided me with a brief synopsis, explaining that the person who was meant to train me had taken a new job and instead of a two week turn over, I would only be getting a half day. My internal dialogue was screaming “What? Really?” A rush of panic surged inside of me but I covered it up with an assertive competent smile and said "Sure, no problem! I will figure things out".

I completed my half day training which consisted of a brief tutorial on where to find files and how to submit the payroll. Instead of feeling like the blind leading the blind, I start to feel a little bit more like the blind leading the much more informed than me. At this point I realize I would be navigating through the darkness of how to effectively lead in my new position.

The beginning weeks of my job were met with a plethora of challenges. I was tasked with learning my job, my employee’s jobs, and all the intricate nuances of the program and all the committee meetings in-between. Then it happened, that dreadful headache that no manager needs, let alone a new manager...interpersonal conflict and insubordination.

During a shift with all the staff present I made a request to one of the supervisors. Without turning his body to speak to me, he replied, "I will get to it when I can get to it". In an attempt to de-escalate a power struggle, I respectfully said his name and requested that he prioritize the task and have it done by the end of the day. He continued to sit with his back to me and repeated his previous statement but this time with a condescending undertone. My first mistake, amongst many, was allowing the other staff to watch the train wreck unfold. I could write a whole novel on this experience alone but I will spare you all the nitty gritty details and sum it up by saying that the cohesiveness of my staff team began to unravel with me as their manager.

I always considered my leadership style to be collaborative but regardless of how hard I tired, I could not find a win-win solution. At least not without a little bit of help! I consulted a conflict coach and she was able to assist me in identifying the core issues. Through coaching, I was able to put my own ego aside and identified my barriers. I realized that I needed to become more knowledgeable about my employee’s roles and duties. I attended to my staffs concerns without sacrificing or suppressing my own needs and objectives as their manager. This opened the door to communication and eventually resolution.

Sometimes the invisible barrier that stands between us and our potential is ourselves. Leadership is rewarding and it comes with an array of challenges. Often time’s people are asked to manage with little resources, a lack of information/training and organizational politics and cultures to boot. My personal experience challenged me but the end result molded me into an effective leader with strong staff alliances. In conflict management a mediator helps individuals get from opposing positions to a place of mutual interests. Effective leadership is similar as an individual influences a group of people to achieve a common goal. My experience was fraught with both headaches and heartaches but conflict coaching provided me with a light that lead to my eventual success. I no longer stand in the way of me and my potential. The sky is the limit for all of us. We just need access to the skills, tools and information to show us the way.

For more information on how to navigate the challenges of leadership see our services or check out our events page for upcoming workshops.


About the Author:


Angela Anthony has over ten years of experience working with both clinical and forensic populations. She has worked in community mental health, adult and youth justice, as well as victim services. Her work in the private and public sector has led her to work with a variety of social service agencies addressing multiple client issues.