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Individual Contributor to Leadership: 3 Ways to Make the Jump

Individual Contributor to Leadership: 3 Ways to Make the Jump

Professional individual contributors are the cream of any good company. Of course, there are the managers. Without these people, there would almost be nothing meaningful left to manage.

There comes a time in the life of an individual contributor when they desire more responsibilities.

When that time to move from the scale of individual contributor to leadership arrives, many find themselves without the necessary managerial skills and preparation to make such a transition.

Not anymore. At least, not with these three approaches:


1. There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’



When you were still an individual contributor, your success with the company was measured in the way you delivered results from tasks that were assigned to you. Now that you have made the managerial jump, that is no longer the case.

You now need to start seeing the bigger picture and working towards managing others to make the bigger plan work.

Think of it as being just a cog in the wheel before but running the wheels now.

There will always be times when you would want to slip back into that role as an individual contributor and get your own job only done.

It is advisable that you catch yourself before you go too far down that road. In the end, you’ll just realize that a small part of the work (your end) has been tied up with many loose ends hanging around.


2. Resist the urge to micromanage

Due to your background as an individual contributor, you might think that you are helping to fix things by being directly involved in everything your workers are doing. That will most likely lead to you taking on the work of others in a bid to ‘get the work done.’ In fact, you will be doing damage on not one, not two but three different fronts.

For one, you would be slipping back into the individual contributor role that you are just hoping to leave behind. You will also be caught burning yourself out in the end with biting of more than you were supposed to even have in your mouth, let alone chew. Finally, you would be indirectly disempowering members of your team rather than building them up to take on such responsibilities.

The ideal thing would be to issue specific instructions to every team member and ask for periodic updates. That way, you can go about your own work while staying on top of things at the same time.


3. Get Training

The skills that made you a great individual contributor won’t necessarily set off the sparks in a managerial role. Not to trivialize the individual contributor role but all you had to do was be accountable for yourself.

By stepping up to a managerial position, you will now have to deal with employee coaching and development, delegation, sustaining performance and maintaining company culture.

This would be a great time to take advantage of the 70-20-10 leadership training model. That means allowing 70% of skill acquisition and training to happen on the job, giving room for 20% to come from mentoring and taking charge of the last 10% with formal training.

Use all of these to your advantage to stock up on all those skills which are missing from your toolbox.


Even with these, there would be some curveballs. However, you would be better prepared for them after incorporating these approaches.

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