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Transitioning from Follower or Peer to Leader and Overcoming a Grudge, pages 167-173

Updated: Sep 10

Part Two: Leadership Tactics, 1. Becoming a Leader, F. Transitioning from Follower or Peer to Leader, G. Overcoming a Grudge, (pages 167-173)


F & G. Transitioning from Follower or Peer to Leader & Overcoming a Grudge


Often in SEAL teams, the leader or LPO (lead petty officer) is chosen from its existing members. The LPO’s were typically chosen because they possessed the most experience, not necessarily senior in rank. For this transition to be effective, the new leader must distinguish themselves from the troops by coming up with plans, giving simple, clear, and concise directions, staying humble, taking input, listening, and leading. Additionally, the leader needs to not only step up but also step out of the weeds. “You will have to stop doing some of the old things that you are used to doing – things you are comfortable with – and start doing things that you aren’t comfortable with”. The leader needs to be looking up and out, and not down an at their team. The balance needs to be struck with the leader being involved with team duties, but not micromanaging. “Don’t be a leader with your hands in your pockets, but don’t be the leader with your hands in everything.” If a team member does hold a grudge with the new leader, overcoming it commonly requires two items. Let them know you appreciate their experience and that you will work with them on eventually leading the team. Also, when appropriate, put them in charge of tasks. While their attitude might not change overnight, these actions will give you the best opportunity to get them on board.


When I was a mathematics teacher, I was chosen to be the team leader of a new initiative happening within our high school. The initiative had four main parts with one targeting our ninth-grade. Our ninth-grade classes were to be physically moved so that our students were separated from the rest of the high school. Additionally, all ninth-grade classes were blocked (double the class time). There were 3 teams with each team having 8 teachers with two teachers per subject (Math, ELA, Social Studies, Science). Every teacher on my team had been at the high school longer than me. I was feeling overwhelmed at the idea of having to lead seven veteran teachers. Luckily, I had two great resources. Dan, the ninth-grade administrator who had chosen me. And Bob, my math counterpart who was a highly respected teacher. Dan was a former officer in the Army and education was his second career. He was very much a chain of command leader. To support me, knowing I could not simply say to my teachers, “…because I’m the team leader”, he would review my team agendas and make recommendations. He would also attend my meetings to provide both support for my position and to redirect any angst from teachers to him. Bob was my sounding board. I would almost always talk to him about my ideas. He provided me with historical information, which was invaluable, as to both past processes and how he thought teachers would react. My job then became to synthesis Dan’s support and Bob’s knowledge into my leadership style. I started very slow and listened more than speaking. What I did not do was take enough notes. I tended to rely on my memory for what was said at meetings. That was a mistake. I eventually tasked someone to be the secretary for the meetings. I worked hard at getting to know my teachers on both a professional and personal level. I even instituted Fondue Fridays. A benefit of our schedule was that team had common lunchtimes. So, every Friday someone was in charge of the protein, cheese, and fruit. It ended up being the highlight of the week for most of us. Not only did we discuss students, and teaching, we got to know one another on a whole different level. We truly became a team.

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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