MCD Partners

Memphis Daily News
How to Meet Leadership Challenges Head-On
October 11, 2017
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

You applied for the position, anxious to seize the opportunity to finally become an administrator, a boss, a leader in the workplace. You went through the rigorous interview process, prepared yourself with the education and experience necessary, and you got the job! Now, you can’t seem to wipe the smile off your face as you picture yourself living that next step in your career. After all, you’ve worked for bosses; you know what to do. How hard can it be?

It can be very hard. Enjoy the honeymoon, and be prepared for the reality checks as you begin your experience. As with all things worthwhile, preparing for the position includes preparing to meet the challenges that come with it. Here are a few thoughts as you climb that ladder.

Even if you are now the boss, you probably still have a boss. Wherever you are on that organizational chart, you will probably have to satisfy both those above and below you. And while you plan to build your dream team, there may be some barriers. You may have to make the team that you inherit work while you consider a longer transition period for new hires, and for changes you see are needed.

It may be lonely. It might even get quiet when you walk into a room. Being at the top of any level separates you from the group you work with, the group you lead. You may miss that sense of camaraderie. It is wise for a leader to maintain a professional distance with all employees, being among them, but not one of them. It is critical when having those tough conversations, and making those tough decisions objectively.

Not everyone thinks you hung the moon. You may not have been the people’s choice. You might even be the boss of a person who also wanted the job, but was passed over, again, who would like nothing better than to see you fail. They could make it a quest to prove you are the wrong person for the job and may actively undermine you. But it really doesn’t matter if people throw accolades or tomatoes, just do your job.

Don’t be lured into being “bossy,” even if this new-found authority tempts you. Leaders know that people who are motivated, inspired by being part of something bigger than themselves, are more engaged in the work they do. Be an inspirational, inclusive leader, not just the boss.

There will be people who work for you who are smarter than you, have better ideas or are more talented. They are not threats; they are your team. Real leaders value those “A” players; know how to keep them motivated, engaged and appreciated; and give them more authority and the credit they deserve.

People leave. Often, it’s the ones with the talent, the ones you mentored whose leaving concerns you. But know that they were ready for greater challenges and you prepared them for their next level of success. When a leader launches a leader, everyone wins.

Yes, it’s hard, but whomever hired you believes you can do it.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

Leaders in Educational Consulting and Models for Success
© 2018 MCD Partners