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10 Ways to Teach the Basics of Leadership in Your Regular Management Conversations

By: Bruce Tulgan
This is Part Two of Four Part Series – Part 1  Part 3  Part 4

The thing is, you want your superstar employee to now be in charge of the team. They are best at the job, the one with the credibility and technical talent.

When you are looking for new leaders, it makes sense to focus first and foremost on those with real technical talent, those superstars who are really good at their jobs and really into it. These are the individuals who have demonstrated their commitment to their work and careers. That commitment is the first essential piece when it comes to identifying new prospects for leadership roles.

What do new managers need most of all? They need support and guidance in learning and practicing the fundamentals of management. Make sure that the new manager is fully prepared to take on additional responsibilities and authority. Teach that new leader how to do the people work, and then support and guide them in this new role, in your regular one-on-ones every step of the way:


  1. Remind the new leader regularly that this new role carries with it real authority, though of course it does not give them license to act like a jerk. It is a huge responsibility that should not be accepted lightly.
  2. Together, go over exactly what their new leadership responsibilities look like.
  3. Explain that management entails more than completing some extra paperwork. You have to explain the “people work” in detail.
  4. Create standard operating procedures for managing, and teach them to all your new leaders. Focus on the fundamentals, like spelling out expectations for every employee who works for the manager, following up regularly, tracking performance closely in writing, and holding people accountable.
  5. When you formally deputize any new leader, no matter how small the project or how short the duration of the leadership role, announce the new leadership to the whole team, articulate the nature of this person’s new authority, and explain the standard operating procedures for management that you have asked the new leader to follow.
  6. Check in daily (or every other day) with this new leader. Regularly walk through the standard operating procedures for managing people. Ask about the management challenges they are probably facing.
  7. Early on, you may not want to sit in on the new leaders’ team meetings and one-on-ones with team members in order to build up their management skills and confidence. Do everything you can to reinforce their authority with the team and every individual on the team. But make sure to take every opportunity you can to help the new leader refine and improve their management techniques.
  8. Pay close attention every step of the way, and evaluate the new leader in their new role. Start focusing, in your regular one-on-one management meetings, on exactly how the new leader is going the work of managing. Ask proving questions about each employee your manager is supposed to be managing: “When did you last meet with employee #1? What d id you hope to accomplish? What did you talk about? What is #2 working on? What did #3 do last week? What guidance and direction did you give #4? What are #5’s current goals and deadlines? What notes did you take down in your manager’s notebook?”
  9. If you want your new manager to focus on something in particular with one or more of her employees, spell that out. If you want your manager to carry a specific message to their employees, hammer away at that message. Write it down. Put it on cards for your manager to hand out to employees. Talk it through. Role-play it.
  10. Of course, you’ll also need to keep talking with your new leader about their non-management responsibilities, but remember, every manager’s first responsibility is managing. So that should be the number one priority in your managing of your managers.

With this kind of sustained, hands-on, transactional leadership development effort and constant evaluation, you can actually have a transformational impact by developing this new leader.

I often joke with leaders and managers who are managing superstars: “Be nice to them. They might be your boss someday.” Indeed, that happens more often than you might think. When you are managing superstars, remember, this is somebody you want to know forever. Be the kind of leader that superstar would never want to stop knowing.

About the Author

Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an online training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (Revised & Updated, 2016), Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), , and It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007). He has written for the New York Times, the Harvard Business Review, HR Magazine, Training Magazine, and the Huffington Post. Bruce can be reached by e-mail at, you can follow him on Twitter @BruceTulgan, or visit his website

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