Stepping up to Management

What is the best way to take the lead in a department that has lost it’s manager without stepping on egos and potentially estranging personnel I need to continue to perform?

I prefer to lead by example, but I am running into instances where I need to assert some sort of authority.

My department is extremely understaffed and I am juggling so many balls in the way of new responsibilities, I am getting overwhelmed occasionally.

Best way, in my experience is to lead b example and consider the fact that people will treat you as you present yourself.

If the case is a department without a leader, step into that role. Dress as a leader, take decisions, and mentor the juniors.

All this, of course should be done without a sense of entitlement or an unwieldy commandment of power. Make it natural, do what needs to be done, and the rest will work itself out.

Authority and Respect is something that is earned, not commanded. Do the right thing and you’ll ear that respect/authority, but don’t go around demanding it, or you’ll be on the fasttrack to becoming the office a$$.

Likewise, I always feel it’s good to look on things in a way that "you’ll be rewarded for what you do above expectations, not to a level where you are rewarded to meeting a level of expectations (make sense?). In other words, you may be overwhelmed now, but if you put in the time and effort , it will come back around. Far better to do the work now then later have it as an example of what you capable of, then go to your boss, and say “I have to do some much more, pay me XXX more to do it”…

just my 0.02$ worth.



I am already doing all of this. I have a strong, work-til-I-can’t-see-straight work ethic and a lot of the effort I put in before my manager left was recognized as hers. It has been an eye opening experience for the rest of the company to see what was really happening.

At my age and experience, this is the opportunity I need. I have been pleased with my team’s response to this adversity and I am always certain to thank them and recognize their efforts, especially when I have forgotten to respond to some issue that has been buried in the flow.

I have stepped up my awareness, started acting and dressing the part, but the rest of my team still knows me as the senior designer, so I try to keep the atmosphere as easy-going as it was before. I am the same person, but now I am responsible for more and I have communicated that to them privately as a group.

The other departments have begun to roll over the top of us with work and requests that would otherwise be declined. I suppose if I have asserted myself as the leader of my department, I need to assert this a little more aggressively to the other departments.

I have had a few miserable excuses for managers in my career and I am staying very cognizant to avoid their sort of behavior and ‘techniques’.

first rule is, authority is granted from bleow, similar to respect.
Making their jobs easier is not the same thing as doing more work, focus less on what you need to get out the door and on more on what input they need to work faster/more effeciently.
In severe understaffing situations people drop the ball and go in circles doing rework. that’s the ticket up.

agreed. It sounds like you are doing it already man! My advice would be to document what you are doing… team offsites, weekly “Design Snack” emails for the team, organizing weekly design staff meetings, time and project management management, work load distribution, decision making… compile this over 12 months and then ask for your title to be changed and a raise.

first rule is, authority is granted from below,

Not sure I can completely agree with you on this one no_spec.

IMO, if other departments are starting to “roll over you” you need the official support of upper management.

Your team, as well as management above you, may understand and accept you as the team leader, but if other department heads do not, you need reinforcement from above to “grant” you the authority (even if it is only on an interim basis) to make binding decisions which reflect company goals. It will place you on the same level in the org chart as other department heads; there is always some schmoe who won’t cooperate because s/he thinks you aren’t on the same level of management.

It also makes other department heads directly responsible to their management, to “play fair” and support your group (and thereby the company) by not overburdening you by skirting the chain of command. Above all, you do not want the group under your leadership, to appear as the “bottleneck” in the process as a result of “requests that would otherwise be declined”.

As yo suggests, do not be too concerned about the money at this point, especially if you are enjoying the roll as “Design Manager”. If you encounter resistance to being designated as a “manager” from above, based on your inexperience, submit that you would consider it as an opportunity to demonstrate to your boss that you do have the ability to further his goals; the money should follow. Stay postivie and don’t let yourself go down the “they-should-be-paying-me-more” road (at least for a year).

Another $.02US

Thanks everyone.

Money is not the issue. I am paid very well. While more is always great, I took this position coming off a layoff, the second of my career. I am getting to the age and the point in my career where I NEED to take a management role. This dog can still run, but I am starting to feel a generational gap between my younger coworkers and myself. I want the experience and new challenges.

I am trying to keep calm. the department is so disorganized right now and the workload is staggering. I am prioritizing, but my time is sucked away by administrative tasks and reports. The vacancy of my manager left a huge vacuum because I was not kept up to date.