Photograph by Robyn Twomey

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.

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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