The Big Change: What really changes when you step into a leadership role?

Stepping into a leadership role is a milestone in any career—and marks a major change in how you approach your role in an organisation and your working life. As exciting as this move may be, navigating this transition can be challenging. As an unfamiliar territory, it can take time to find your feet and orient yourself in the shift up, a fact made all the more challenging in light of research, which shows that many managers don’t receive any training when they take on a leadership role. 

Growing into your new responsibilities and gaining confidence starts with understanding the fundamental shifts that will happen and being prepared to meet them. You are now leading the work- rather than just doing the job, and changes are inevitable in the day-to-day sense and in terms of emotional and psychological impact. These include your perspectives of yourself and your work- as you look at it more strategically, as well as your relationships and use of time and resources.  

Ultimately, leadership is a practice, not a position of authority and one in which the experience of others to illuminate the way can be invaluable. We asked our everywomanAmbassadors—senior women from the corporate world—for their insights on this crucial transition, from relationship resets to new responsibilities—and what really changes when you step into a leadership role… 

1. The Big Change: You have to be prepared to say ‘no’ 

Moving into leadership means that you’re setting the pace, vision and strategy. That means that it’s down to you to make strong decisions, and many of those will now include saying ‘no’—a word that many women can find difficult to embrace due to concerns about conflict of ‘likeability.’ In an everywomanNetwork member poll, only 3% of participants who answered questions relating to their ability to say ‘No’ scored as ‘Assertive’ [1]. Shifting your comfort zone from always having to say ‘yes’ to comfortably saying a strategic ‘no’ is a vital skill to foster, and one that ultimately leads to good boundaries and clear leadership.  

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2.   The Big Change: You need the courage to ask tricky questions 

Leaders must have the courage to ask challenging or awkward questions—with their wider perspective and strategic focus- they are the people best placed to call for clarity or dig into the ‘why’, all of which can keep a project on track or even change the course of it. Research suggests a sticking point can be that asking tricky questions often comes along with disagreement or conflict, something that many women lean away from. But creativity and critical thinking is yoked to the responsibility of being that difficult voice in the room, and stepping up to own it is a key leadership requirement. 

3. The Big Change: Inclusivity is your responsibility now

Moving into leadership means that you are not only responsible for being inclusive as an individual- but also for actively creating an environment in which others feel included. With 79% of employees confirming working somewhere with a diverse workforce as an important factor for their happiness [2], the ability to create inclusion is vital and helps to create a wider culture around it. Research shows senior women are 1.5 times as likely as men to leave a job because they want to work for a company committed to DE&I. This business value that is ultimately embedded through leadership [3]. And this demand is a key demand of the workforce of tomorrow—by 2025, Gen Z will make up 27% of that workforce [4] in OECD countries and is increasingly demanding environments that support all forms of identity.  

4.   The Big Change: You have to shift to a beginner’s mindset  

Having the vulnerability to admit you don’t always know the answers may seem counterintuitive, but the best leaders are the best learners and also the most courageous in challenging their team and growing. In fact, consciously embracing a ‘beginner’s mindset’, or a mindset that seeks to challenge assumptions and explore new possibilities, is vital in an era of fast innovation and change. As a leader, it is impactful to admit that you are learning and step away from being an ‘expert’ to ask more questions around the idea of ‘what if’, bringing a collaborative and creative edge to your leadership and a competitive advantage to your company 

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5.   The Big Change: People will have new perceptions of you 

People’s relationship with you, perception of you and how they work with you will inevitably change as you rise through the ranks. Adjusting relationships that may have been predicated on one dynamic to align with your changing role are important. Be aware of where expectations will have changed in your relationships: for example, you may find you’re unable to talk in the same way about certain things with people as you’re now more aligned with company intention, or that being honest with a colleague about something and them being honest in return becomes stilted due to a sense of hierarchy. Staying open and aware is crucial to reset the landscape and evolving your working relationships to reflect your new reality.  

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A special thank you to our brilliant everywomanAmbassadors for bringing their expertise and experience to our leadership series.






everywoman’s Ambassadorsare senior women in business, representing a myriad of roles, job functions, sectors and industries. They are exceptional female role models who share everywoman’s commitment to advancing women in business, and who play an active role within their organisations and the wider community to enable greater diversity and inclusion, with a particular focus on gender.


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