Making the leap to a leadership position mid-career often entails a significant shift in daily routine and responsibilities. It also requires examining company goals and procedures through a completely different lens than that of an individual contributor. So what is the best approach when preparing for your mid-career leadership transition?

People and businesses invest in diverse leadership programs for the benefit of both. Leadership training empowers talented workers by sharpening business acumen and strengthening competencies. So, preparing for a mid-career transition is critical for companies and staff who want to drive their careers forward.

Few people are born to lead. Instead, most develop the necessary attributes through first-hand experience and leadership development programs. This article looks at building a proper foundation to position yourself for a successful mid-career leadership transition.

The Right Time for a Mid-Career Leadership Transition

Now is the ideal time to be thinking about developing your leadership skills. By 2025, 75% of the global workforce will consist of Millennials. And within ten years, there will be few Baby Boomers remaining in leadership roles [1].

Leadership transition can mean different things. For some, it’s a promotion or restructuring of their current organization. For others, it is taking on a similar role in a different department, a project role secondment, or a new career change elsewhere. Whatever your goals, the approach is comparable.

Challenges Transitioning to a New Leadership Role

There’s a distinct difference between leadership roles and management roles. While there is some overlap, relying on the management mindset and practices in a leadership role is a mistake. So, you must recognize the distinction and embrace the right approach if you plan to successfully transition to a leadership position.

Gender Bias at the C-Level?
Leadership career transition offers less support for female talent than men in coaching services, skills training, and general feedback. Yet, according to research, US companies with gender parity in female and male leaders significantly outperform male-dominated firms [3] [4].

Mid-Career Management Vs. Mid-Career Leadership

Both roles have distinct functions along with characteristics and skills that share similarities. This is why a manager in transition can sometimes fall into the trap of only relying on their managerial experience. 

Managers tend to follow visions, while leaders set them. A typical manager directs individuals and teams towards a goal, while leaders inspire people to succeed. A competent leader looks to the future with vision; managers work in the present. And lastly, leaders help shape workplace cultures, whereas managers endorse corporate ethos.

The American business writer and consultant Thomas J. Peters sums it up well.“Management is arranging and telling; leadership is nurturing and enhancing.” 

How EWF Corporate Programs Help Your Leadership Transition

According to a recent survey, the US now suffers from a massive leadership deficit. Thus, talented leaders are already in high demand as the shortage grows[2]. Strengthen your pipeline by training the talent you already have. 

EWF International offers emerging leaders programs through customized corporate programming. A turn-key leadership development programs to prepare your existing talent to fill new roles as leaders. 

See Our Corporate Program Offerings

Position Yourself for a Mid-Career Leadership Transition

Great leaders are people-oriented; they have—or have developed—the skill of effective interaction. Individuals and teams follow inspirational leaders not because they must but because they want to. Furthermore, a group of willing contributors far outperforms a begrudging workforce who only turn up for the money.

Get Noticed – Be Confident

You may be skilled at your current job, but you must stand out in the workplace to move up the career ladder. Remember, leadership is more about people than positions. Getting others on your side is half the battle, which begins by raising your profile. Self-confidence is crucial here, so consider a career coach if you need to work on improving your poise.

4 Must-Have Proficiencies for Front-Line Leadership

Below is a rundown of the four core attributes and skills needed to transition into a new field or front-line leadership position.

1) Business and Financial Acumen

Business and financial acumen is the key that unlocks the door to leadership career advancement. To show business acumen, focus energy on what matters most through strategic (big picture) thinking. And learn to love and present facts and figures confidently, in ways that matter to your organization.

2) Shared Knowledge

No person can know everything, of course. But one should never stop learning and acquiring new wisdom through experience. Leaders with deep awareness and understanding impress others and are positioned to make faster, better-informed decisions. Those with knowledge and skills can pass on their expertise to build employee proficiency. This approach also prevents knowledge hoarding that helps no one.

Knowledge Leadership–An Effective Tool
Knowledge leadership is how leaders work with critical information. The process involves gathering, organizing, sharing, and analyzing knowledge to make it accessible to employees for the benefit of all [5].

3) Acquired Skills for Effective Mid-Career Leadership

Some skills come naturally to a leader, but most people learn and develop skills over time. By mid-career, committed employees poised to become leaders should have a decent grasp of five critical proficiencies. They include strategic thinking (and acting), the ability to self-develop, team development, ethical practices, and an innovative mind.

How Leaders Apply Acquired Skills

Strategic thinking is a cognitive thought process applied by leaders who look and act beyond the immediate to achieve an aim or set of goals. And those who continually self-develop learn from mistakes, build knowledge and form new skills. Team development is the ability of leaders to maximize team performance through collaboration, training, and development. 

Ethical leaders behave by setting principles and values and use themselves as the example of how others should act. Lastly, those with an innovative mind learn to think outside the box and seek opportunities to implement better alternative processes and solutions.

4) Critical Resources

Leadership is an evolving, continual journey with no graduation. However, there are several critical resources every successful leader should exploit.
Tapping into developed instincts is no small thing. Also, savvy leaders are open to new ideas and welcome fresh perspectives from personal boards, mentors, and team feedback. They have access to trusted advisors and learn from that most valuable resource of all—failure.

Leaders learn how to lead themselves before they can lead others. Here are the eight inner-resource skills leaders should build and maintain:

  1. Stress tolerance: calmly deals with stressful situations
  2. Self-actualization: realize personal potential
  3. Flexibility: adapt to dynamic situations
  4. Emotional self-awareness: understand the impact of one’s emotions
  5. Emotional expression: open verbal or non-verbal expression
  6. Self-regard: realistically assess one’s abilities
  7. Independence: charts a course of action and follows through
  8. Optimism: remain positive despite challenges

5 Preparation Steps to Mid-Career Leadership Transition

Mid-career leadership transition can be an exciting time full of new opportunities. But you don’t just arrive ready; you must prepare the path. The following five steps are strategies that help get you noticed and make way for a smoother career switch.

#1 Update Your Resume

Mid-Career Leadership Transition: Update Your Resume - EWF International

Keeping your resume up-to-date is a priority. Opportunities for your career transition can appear unannounced, so always having an updated resume ensures you are ready to capitalize on such transition opportunities. It is your potential key to the interview room. Nothing is worse than being invited to send a resume that needs a significant update.

Updating a resume mid-career can be daunting and time-consuming. But it’s a vital step if you are to make that critical first impression, whether you’re applying in-house or elsewhere. Start by adding your existing transferable skills and note any new ones you may need to work on improving.

Be Mindful of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

This is more important if you are planning a mid-career leadership transition to a new company. Many of the mid to large concerns now use an applicant tracking system to sift through resumes. These automated systems reject most applications, so only a few reach the desk of a human recruiter. You need to highlight your list of achievements, but don’t try to over-impress. No busy recruiter will complain of an application with high readability.

Also, using industry-related keywords, correct formatting, plenty of white space, and eye-catching titles pleases ATS and human eyes. Or, consider hiring a professional resume writer to increase your chances of successfully passing through an ATS’s review.

#2 Manage and Exceed Expectations

Exceeding expectations is one of the best ways to get noticed by those who matter. A great way to achieve this is to slightly under-promise knowing that you can over-deliver. This subtle trick is also an excellent confidence booster. 

Conversely, if you over-promise and underdeliver, you fall short and fail to impress.

#3 Grow Your Followership

Influential leaders are diverse, level-headed, and able to engage and inspire those around them. However, it’s time for a change in approach if your ability to inspire others needs working on. Many skills contribute to this, but research suggests centeredness is the only one needed to become truly inspirational [6].

Centeredness is a fundamental trait in leadership that enables you to remain calm under demanding situations. And when that happens, you cope better with stress, stay focused, and empathize with those around you. This skill emits quiet confidence and is why workers enjoy being around centered leaders.

#4 Be Self-Aware

Emerging leaders have self-awareness, though some of it is latent. To be self-aware is to understand your strengths and weaknesses. You can recognize the impact your emotional intelligence habits have on others. Leaders who lack this cognitive state are less aware of how their behaviors and decisions affect those around them. So, by cultivating self-awareness, you think more about the influence of your judgments [7].

#5 Strategic Thinking

You must think broadly and strategically to thrive in a leadership transition opportunity. You always question whether there are means to do a thing in a more effective or efficient manner.

Strategic thinking helps you work more effectively through unknown situations. It gains and develops your ability to reason, acquire knowledge, and make informed decisions. And that is what enables those you support to push through setbacks and overcome challenges. Strategic leadership results in more workplace influence and respect.

#6 Develop and Use Your Networks

Mid-Career Leadership Skill: Networking - EWF International

A successful leadership transition is about identifying and sticking with the winners. Networking before and after the change creates a solid fabric of quality contacts. Ideally, these people can support you with feedback, insight, and help spread your influence. Hence, a robust network is a precious resource for your continual development.

Networking Goals for Leaders

The best place to start building a network is within your company. It may surprise you how many potential doors of opportunity networking opens. Mentorship is an excellent way to develop new contacts above and below your position by gaining a mentor or serving as one. As your reputation grows, so will your network and influence.

Network Relationships

Your network goals depend on your current role or upcoming leadership status. First-line leaders should focus more on transition relationships. A high-potential leader looks to strengthen existing—and grow new—alliances. And at the top end of the tree, the focus is more on creating strategic contacts.

Online Networks

Many cohesive and adaptable networks have been created on social platforms. LinkedIn is one of the better-known for professionals to grow networks. However, there is one caveat. To be effective, you must have a consistent, active online presence to build a trusted, user-friendly personal brand.

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Staying at a company out of loyalty is rarely the best choice, but leaving can be tricky. Consider moving on if leadership transition opportunities within your organization are rare. Remember, it is you, not the company you work for, who is ultimately in control of your career trajectory and development. But when is it time to consider moving on?

It depends on several things, but the typical deciding factors tend to be:

  • Working the same position for several years without progression
  • Repeatedly passed over for promotion
  • The talent pipeline is all men (implying bias)
  • There are few mentorship or networking opportunities
  • Your current role’s type of work is holding you back
  • You’ve lost your passion and need to upskill

It’s never a good idea to make rash decisions, especially if you enjoy your place of work. Speak to your boss first to air your concerns and ask for their assistance in creating a career development plan. Then take matters from there.

How EWF’s Emerging Leaders Program Helps Mid-Career Transition

Are you an early- to mid-career woman preparing to transition to a new leadership role and help drive your company forward? Our Emerging Leaders Program is a curriculum-intensive course that guarantees to increase your leadership acumen. We equip you with the fundamental skills needed to become a more proficient and influential leader in the modern workplace.

Learn More About EWF’s Emerging Leaders Program