Leadership Lessons from a Total Noob

Employees, Employer, Maren Hogan

One does not become a leader overnight. In fact, many people who never wanted to be leaders in the first place, somehow wind up at the front of the boat, shouting “ROW!” and wondering, is that how other bosses do it? Am I the right person for this? I was so much better at simply rowing!

That’s me. Many days I don’t feel like I have the tools, attitude or mindset to lead. But some things you simply have to do. Here is what I remember on those days:

1.   I don’t have to be right.

This is really good because, usually, I am not. Being right matters so rarely in being a (good) leader. You can always be right and you can always prove your “right-ness” to your colleagues or employees, but it won’t make anyone more likely to follow you. So instead of being right, I focus on how I can make my team better.

2.   Say something, say it again and then repeat it two more times.

Consistency in communication has become my permanent cross to bear. I used to worry that people would think I am being patronizing by repeating myself ad nauseum, but in fact, it helps them to realize precisely what I mean.


Let me google that for you. Being a leader is not the same thing as being a micromanager. It is not my job to babysit and it is not my job to do YOUR job. By insitlling accountability into every one on my team, I put the onus of good work on them. My only job is assigning, training and encouraging. If someone asks me a technical question around a task, I usually give them my LMGTFY look. (Note: This is different than letting them ask me questions about MY preferences or assignments.)

4.   Be like March, in reverse

In like a lion, out like a lamb works perfectly in reverse when you have to criticize or correct. Instead of flipping out the first time something goes wrong, correct gently but firmly to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again. If it keeps happening, that’s when it might be okay to start becoming a little more stern. It’s never okay to be abusive in any way shape or form, however.

5.   Gratitude

Leaders always say thank you, they never take their team for granted and assume that because someone is receiving a paycheck, that they own ever scintilla of their time. I try to remember to say thank you, not just for a job well-done but for their time, energy and commitment to our agency.

6.   Time to let loose.

Every Friday, we have our “eatin meetin” which is where we talk about our wins for the week, what we wish we’d done better and then just talk. We also have food and wine (or coffee). This not only has been the source of lots of funny NSFW moments, it’s also helped focus people on Fridays to get their work done instead of socializing, which is what everyone wants to do on Fridays anyway.

7.   Be up front.

Frequently, people will come to me with issues they have with their coworkers and I nearly always say the same thing. “Well, you definitely need to bring up this issue with so-and-so.” It’s sort of the leadership version of telling your children that if they aren’t hungry for a carrot stick, then they’re not really hungry for chips. Either it’s a big enough issue to be disrupting your work and you need to discuss it with them, or it isn’t. (This does not apply in cases of harassment or discrimination.) The same holds true for me. If I am harboring resentment or not being transparent about what I am going through, then I do my team a massive disservice. It’s not actually fair.

What am I missing? In no way do I think this is a complete list and to be sure, many of the suggestions are geared toward a smaller agency/workplace. Do you have ideas? What would you tell a fledgling leader like me? Any tips?