The Seven Critical Questions Every New Leader/Manager Should Ask

Congratulations on your new leadership role! Stepping into a managerial position is a significant career milestone, but with it comes a set of challenges that require thoughtful consideration. As an executive coach with extensive experience in guiding leaders through their transitions, I’ve identified seven critical questions that every new leader or manager should ask themselves. These questions, rooted in research and practical insights, serve as a roadmap for effective leadership and pave the way for a successful tenure.

1. What is Your Leadership Philosophy?

Before making decisions or setting goals, defining your leadership philosophy is essential. Reflect on your values, beliefs, and the type of leader you aspire to be. Research shows that leaders who align their actions with a well-defined philosophy create a positive impact and foster a healthier work environment.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Business Ethics found that managers who actively reflect on and cultivate their leadership philosophy make more ethical decisions and promote integrity in their organizations (Brown & Treviño, 2006). Your leadership philosophy serves as an anchor during challenging times and guides your approach to developing employees. As leadership expert Warren Bennis said, “Leadership is knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.”

Take time to articulate what you stand for as a leader. Define your core values and what leadership qualities you hope to embody. Your philosophy will shape how you communicate, make decisions, and interact with your team.

2. How Will You Build and Foster Relationships?

Effective leadership thrives on relationships. Research consistently emphasizes the importance of solid interpersonal connections in the workplace. Consider how you will build trust, communicate transparently, and cultivate a positive team culture. Invest time in getting to know your team members on both a personal and professional level.

A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that high-quality relationships at work lead to increased feelings of psychological safety, belonging, and engagement (Chiaburu & Harrison, 2008). As a leader, you set the tone for workplace relationships. An analysis by Gallup revealed that managers account for 70% of the variance in team engagement, indicating your crucial role in fostering positive connections (Harter, 2022).

Schedule one-on-one meetings with employees to understand their goals and challenges. Create opportunities for team building and social connection outside of work. Model effective communication through active listening, transparency, and respect. Your investment in relationships can enhance collaboration, morale, and performance.

3. What Are Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals?

Establish clear, measurable goals for the short and long term. Research indicates that goal-setting enhances motivation and performance. Break down your objectives into manageable steps, ensuring alignment with both personal and organizational visions.

Studies demonstrate that specific, challenging goals lead to higher employee productivity levels than vague or unchallenging targets (Locke & Latham, 2019). As a leader, you are responsible for translating high-level strategy into tangible goals for your team. Provide clarity around objectives, give frequent feedback on progress, and align individual goals to the overarching organizational vision.

Develop quarterly, annual, and 3-5 year goals that stretch your abilities but are realistic. Seek input from your manager and team to gain buy-in and insight into goal feasibility. With defined goals in place, you will be equipped to lead your team forward with focus and purpose.

4. How Will You Navigate Change and Adaptability?

Change is inevitable in any leadership role. Research-based evidence underscores the significance of adaptability to ineffective leadership. Anticipate potential challenges, communicate changes transparently, and demonstrate resilience. Your ability to navigate change will set the tone for your team’s response.

According to a McKinsey study, 70% of organizational transformations fail due to resistance to change (Meaney & Pung, 2008). As a leader, you play a pivotal role in driving change. Lead by example in embracing change and highlight the positive potential outcomes. Provide resources and training to support employees through transitions. Maintain open communication and create opportunities for feedback.

Research also shows that leaders who role model resilience and flexibility inspire their teams to push through challenges (Youssef & Luthans, 2007). Lean into your resilience as you guide your team through ups and downs. With an adaptable mindset, you can turn change into an opportunity for growth.

5. What Strategies Will You Employ for Team Development?

A high-performing team is a reflection of strong leadership. Draw on research that highlights the positive correlation between effective team development strategies and organizational success. Implement team-building activities, encourage open communication, and provide opportunities for professional growth.

Studies show that highly engaged teams demonstrate higher productivity, innovation, and retention rates (Harter & Mann, 2017). As a leader, look for development opportunities that play to your team’s strengths. Foster collaboration through brainstorming sessions and group projects. Conduct skill-building workshops and provide resources for growth. Celebrate wins and publicly recognize employees for great work.

According to Gallup, the opportunity for career development is a top driver of employee retention (Harter & Mann, 2022). Your investment in helping your team develop new skills reinforces your commitment to their growth. Dedicate time for frequent check-ins and provide constructive feedback to guide improvement. By making development a priority, you empower your team members to thrive.

6. How Will You Prioritize and Manage Your Time?

Time management is a common challenge for new leaders. Research-based strategies can help you prioritize tasks, delegate effectively, and avoid burnout. Implement proven time management techniques to ensure that you are focusing on high-impact activities.

According to a survey of over 23,000 leaders, only 54% felt they were investing time in their most important priorities (Stewart et al., 2017). Effective time management reduces stress and enables you to be more present and engaged as a leader. Set aside time each week for strategic planning. Block focus hours for high-value work. Learn to delegate tasks that can be handled by others. With strong time management, you set yourself up for success.

Leadership expert Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured, gets managed.” Track how you are spending your time to gain insight into time use patterns. Eliminate or reduce low-value tasks. The ability to manage your time and energy will allow you to operate at your highest level of contribution and impact.

7. How Will You Seek and Utilize Feedback?

Continuous improvement is key to successful leadership. Research consistently emphasizes the value of seeking feedback for professional growth. Establish feedback mechanisms, actively seek input from your team, and be open to constructive criticism. Use feedback as a tool for refining your leadership approach.

According to a study in the Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 92% of employees believe that their performance would improve if their managers provided corrective feedback (Zenger & Folkman, 2020). As a leader, invite two-way feedback, responding thoughtfully and with appreciation. Consider using 360-degree reviews or anonymous surveys to gain a multifaceted perspective.

Receiving negative feedback can be challenging, so be prepared to stay objective, ask clarifying questions, and avoid getting defensive. Feedback is a gift that enables self-awareness and growth. View it as an opportunity to evaluate your leadership and make improvements.

In conclusion, embarking on a leadership role is a thrilling journey filled with opportunities for growth and impact. You’ll lay a solid foundation for success by addressing these seven critical questions grounded in research and practical insights. Remember, effective leadership is an ongoing process of self-discovery and improvement. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the victories, and never stop learning. Your leadership journey has just begun, and the possibilities are limitless.