Skip to main content

Your First Leadership Job: How Catalyst Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others

Your First Leadership Job: How Catalyst Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others

Tacy M. Byham, Richard S. Wellins

ISBN: 978-1-119-15384-9 June 2015 288 Pages



Becoming the Very Best First-Time Leader

Congratulations! You’re now in charge. Perhaps it’s your first time as a leader, or maybe you want to fine-tune your skills. Either way, you’ve begun one of the most rewarding chapters of your career. But, like many beginnings, the first few years can be challenging. Fortunately, you don’t have to tackle this challenge on your own. Your First Leadership Job gives you practical advice straight from others who have walked in your shoes. Not only does it include dozens of tools to ensure your success, but it’s also based on the authors’ and DDI’s extensive experience and research, which ultimately has led to the development of millions of leaders around the world. In fact, a quarter-million leaders will be developed this year alone via DDI training.

Your First Leadership Job is divided into two sections. Part 1 introduces the concept of catalyst leader—one who sparks energy, passion, and commitment in others. Your transition to catalyst leader is a major step in your leadership journey. This book provides essential tips to put you on the catalyst path. Ultimately, leadership is about the many conversations—frequent, clear, authentic, and occasionally difficult—that you will have daily.  Your First Leadership Job builds awareness of the fundamental skills you’ll come to rely on to make every one of these interactions successful. 

Part 2 devotes 13 chapters to critical core leadership competencies, including coaching for success, hiring the best employees, turning dreaded appraisals into discussions that propel performance, and handling difficult employees. It also includes a chapter for first-time female leaders.

Look at Your First Leadership Job as an indispensable companion to becoming an awesome leader—one who will make a positive, lasting impact on your team, family, and career. Visit to learn more.

Foreword xi

Preface xiii

Part 1: Catalyst Leadership 1

1. Now You’re a Leader 3

The Journey Begins

2. Boss or Catalyst? 9

What Makes a Great Leader?

3. Navigating the Transition to Leadership 17

The Mind-Set You Need to Succeed

4. Your Leadership Brand, Part 1 28

Be Authentic

5. Your Leadership Brand, Part 2 35

Bring Out the Best in People and Be Receptive to Feedback

6. Leadership Is a Conversation, Part 1 46

How to Make People Feel Heard, Valued, and Motivated

7. Leadership Is a Conversation, Part 2 66

How to Build Trust and Ownership

8. Your Five-Step Conversation Road Map 75

Taking a Practical Approach to Get Results

9. Nothing Else Matters Unless You Get Results 87

How to Execute with Focus, Measurement, and Accountability

Part 2: Mastery and Leadership Skills 113

10. Hiring and Selecting the Best 115

Behavior Predicts Behavior

11. What Your Boss Really Wants from You 130

Become an Adviser

12. Engagement and Retention 135

Creating the Environment to Energize People

13. Meetings 149

Make Them Count!

14. Coaching 161

Learning from Success

15. Feedback Fundamentals 173

Specific, Timely, and Balanced

16. Handling Difficult Employee Situations 181

Focus on the Behavior, Not the Person

17. Delegation 191

Be a Delegator, Not a Dumper

18. Performance Management 201

An Ongoing Cycle, Not an Event

19. You and Your Network 209

Nurture Your Business Relationships

20. Influence 221

Look Up, Down, and Across

21. A Woman’s First Leadership Job 229

Own the Moment

22. Leadership Changes the World 241

The Difference Is You

Part 3: Bonus Chapters and Tools 245

(available online at the DDI microsite)

Citations 247

Acknowledgments 253

About DDI 255

About the Author 256

Index 259

“One of the biggest HR challenges organisations face is to ensure that they have effective and motivated managers. Making the transition into a management role is a daunting one for most people and one for which they often get little support. There is no doubt in my mind that this book will have a global appeal and should be seen as a must-read for those taking on their first management role. I like that it takes a very practical approach with lots of case studies, check-lists, self-assessment questions, reflections, and exercises. I particularly like the chapter on establishing your own leadership brand by being authentic and trustworthy.”—Danny Kalman Talent Management Professional and ICF Accredited Coach

“There are so many leadership books and so little time for new leaders, but if there is one book to squeeze in, it would be Your First Leadership Job. It is a combination of important insights, theory, and research on leadership that follows up with a section that emphasizes mastering the skills. This section is filled with no-nonsense, practical information and examples punctuated with thoughtful questions and checklists that encourage self-reflection for the individual interested in taking on the challenge of being a leader for a living.”—Pam Benoit Executive Vice President and Provost, Ohio University

“Leaders are made by hard work and determination—the price one pays to be able to make a difference to people and society. Like all big goals, it starts with one single step. Your First Leadership Job is that one first step for you and builds the foundation of global leadership.”—Ester Martinez CEO and Editor-in-Chief, People Matters

“At Whirlpool, we put millennial new hire sales reps into a house together for 10 weeks and call it the “Real Whirled.” They learn technical skills about our products as well as the interaction skills in this book. Both are crucial to their success. Every new hire, whether a formal leader or not, should read this book.”—Donna Porter Manager, Organizational Development and Learning, Whirlpool Corporation

“I had been a manager for several years, and I was missing foundational conversation skills in my leadership style. I really wish I had been exposed to them early in my leadership career. For more than 10 years now, I have put the new skills to work every day. They helped me achieve my success.”—Steve Sutton Volvo

“Few career transitions are as difficult as becoming a first-time leader; few books provide such a clear, detailed blueprint to being successful. Rich and Tacy have distilled decades of wisdom in an effort to make great leaders less rare.”—Rebecca L. Ray, Ph.D. Executive Vice President, Knowledge Organization, Human Capital Practice Leader, The Conference Board

“Leadership is work. It takes commitment and courage. The building blocks inYour First Leadership Job are a great launch pad for leaders. Then, you practice, fine-tune, and never stop working on it.”—Linda Aldred Senior Vice President, Texas Children's Hospital

“The transition from individual contributor to supervisor or manager is the single most difficult transition for most leaders. This book is a marvelous compendium of practical advice to assist in successfully navigating that move. Building on decades of practical experience, the authors present their wisdom in an easily digestible way.”—Jack Zenger CEO, Zenger Folkman; co-author of The Extraordinary Leader

“We believe leaders shape great companies, so building great leaders is a key business imperative for Philips. These fundamental interaction skills lie at the very core of leadership.”—Peter Hope Head of Leadership Development, Philips International B.V.

“Stepping into leadership is an exciting and challenging time for anyone. Your First Leadership Job is a valuable and practical resource for any aspiring leader.”—Alison Bourne Head of Executive Development, ABF plc

“In leading, as in so many other disciplines, small changes can result in astonishing impacts. By saying the wrong thing, a leader can crush the ambition of a team member. Conversely, by saying the right thing in the right way, a leader can lift the spirits and performance of a team to unexpected heights. Your First Leadership Job offers tools and techniques for interacting with others in a way that helps them deliver their best performance while enjoying a ton of fulfillment in having done so.”—David R. MacDonald, Ph.D., APA, SIOP Haworth College of Business; Western Michigan University

“This is the first book I have read that offers a practical guide to your first days in management with real-life examples, practical tips, and exercises to help the first-time manager succeed. A must-read for the new manager.”—Debbie McGrath Chief Instigator,

“Our customers’ needs are changing all the time, so our leaders must bring differentiated solutions to create real value for them and be empowered to do so. The catalyst leader concepts addressed in this book are the keys to making great leaders.”—Julie Blust Director of Learning Management, Cardinal Health

“A comprehensive and practical guide for anyone who is taking on their first leadership role, complete with tailored advice for women stepping into leadership. A must-read for any newly promoted people manager and a great best practice guide for all experienced people managers who are committed to lifelong learning.”—Elke ThammGroup Head of Talent, FTSE 50 Organisation

“My interest was thoroughly captured by this title and I can't stop recommending it. So much so that I've just bought my 56 supervisory graduates a copy each and tasked them to read and learn from its approaches.” —HR Magazine