So you promoted your star performer to a leadership role. Good for you.
But something odd is happening: Even though he was a genuinely nice person last year, with the majority of his persuasive power coming from his desire to be collaborative and his personal charisma, he is now engaging in an aggressive, command and control behaviour that you havenít seen before. What happened?
We are inclined to think that maybe this person just hasnít got what it takes to succeed at management level. Thatís a shame. Itís also not necessarily true. There are certain things that we know about aggressive behaviours and how they perpetuate themselves and, if you get on top of it early enough (preferably before it begins), your new leader will be just fine.
Aggressive behaviour and the never-ending cycle
There are a number of theories around this, and in the true spirit of nature vs nurture, it appears that Ďaggressive personalitiesí are really only tripped by environment. Unfortunately, according to behavioural neurobiologist Professor Robert Sapolsky, one of those environmental factors might be exposure to a position of higher status. According to Sapolsky and a few other researchers, testosterone might boost aggression and status seeking behaviour in some situations, but it is equally likely that high status positions and aggressive behaviours might increase testosterone.
So it seems that if we put people in a position of higher status, this might boost their testosterone levels, which might lead to aggressive, command and control behaviours. And the more of this behaviour that the individual exhibits, the more there testosterone levels will rise, and the more likely they are to perpetuate the behaviour. There is evidence to suggest that people who are in a position to use their high status on a regular basis have higher levels of testosterone than those who arenít in such a position.
Preventing the cycle
Here are two things that are paramount in making sure that your new leaders get off on the right foot and stay there:
1) Early Mentoring is Critical
Stop command and control behaviour ASAP. If you donít want the cycle to gain itís own momentum, this mentoring at the beginning of their new career is paramount. Quite often, itís not the first few months when they are finding their feet that are most important. Itís between three and six months when the new manager begins to get more comfortable.
2) Set Expectations
One of the key factors that contribute to poor leadership is a lack of clear expectations. Let your new manager know what their new role entails, what the expected behaviours are and what you will judge them on. Donít let them sink or swim Ė give them a flotation device and gradually take it away from them later.
The better you look after your leaders in the first six months, the more success they will have. It seems simple, but I am constantly amazed at the lack of support that new leaders get Ė until itís too late.