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Naimisha Chanumolu Finds Importance In Informal Power

A new job or venture is as terrifying as it is exhilarating, especially if you're a manager. What are the best ways to navigate a big transition? We asked five leaders to reveal what they learned during a recent power move. Then, we tapped the leadership experts at DDI* to assess how our fearless leaders have handled their staff (and themselves) amid the chaos.

Photograph by Robyn Twomey

Naimisha Chanumolu

Software Engineer and Project Manager, Medidata
Accustomed to working solo, Chanumolu now leads a software development team. In April, during the thick of her job transition, she had a baby boy, Naishik Kollu.

The Eager Learner

Self-Assessment: "I'm running a core group of six, with an extended team of 25. Nobody is less than a director. Meanwhile, I'm only an engineer with no real title and the only girl on the team. I love it, but I never estimated how hard it is to manage people. It scared me at first.

To help ease the transition, I took a 35-hour project management certification course online, on my own time. (I was about to have a kid, so I had to plan my life carefully; I wrote my exam during my first trimester!) And my manager has helped me learn how to talk to people, to help gain the team's trust."

DDI Assessment: Naimisha shows clear strengths in problem analysis. But she has what we like to call a blind spot. First-time leaders often think they need to act with command and control, but people look to their bosses to feel validated; employees want to earn their supervisor's confidence. She can better manage the self-esteem of her team by listening to their feelings and responding with empathy.

CHANUMOLU'S RESPONSE: "I was banging my head during my assessment! The process helped me see that you have to earn informal power. 'I am the boss and you have to do what I say' is the formal approach to power. Achieving informal power, through relationships and experience, is what's really important. People will believe your judgment."

*DDI surveys conducted in 2010 and 2011

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A version of this article appeared in the December 2012/January 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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