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From Peer to Leader: Navigating Role Transitions for Women in Business

When did you move from a peer to a leader? Did you move to leading former coworkers and work-mates? How did that feel? And how did you make it work?

I made this move early in my career. I was working clinically and was promoted to a leadership position within my team. So, all my coworkers and work-buddies were now my employees. I remember feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable about how these crucial relationships would change. In addition, I was the youngest woman to ever have a role like this and there was pressure to perform. I valued my relationships and wanted them to remain whole, even if changed. Even my roommate and dear friend was now one of my employees.

When I think about this journey, a few truths come to mind;

  • There was no one to “show me the way” on making this transition

  • I was young and did not have the wisdom of years, so I have to figure it out on my own

  • I made A LOT of mistakes. And made them badly.

Over the years, I‘ve had to do this again and again. While each scenario was different, I learned how to create a smooth environment and keep myself and everyone around me whole.

  • Give your team space: to process, adjust, and come around. Some will be instantaneous, and some will take time

  • Be clear on each relationship: your authenticity so important with each team member. Sharing your thoughts and feelings will create a safe place for them to share and connect with you in this new space

  • Engage them throughout the transition and beyond: Most of your team’s trepidation will be more about them than you. How will this affect me? Why didn’t I get promoted? The more collaborative you can be as you assume your role through feedback/design sessions and group input, the more valued they will feel and the better the transition will go.

  • Over-communicate: The more information you give your team, the less they will be able to “make stuff up”. This means less anxiety and insecurity.

  • Stay the course- be flexible but not over-accommodating: There is line that can be crossed from flexibility in your processes for the betterment of the group or mission and just accommodating your team to “keep the peace”. Stay strong in the leadership skills that got your hired while staying bendable.

  • Do your own thought work so you can hold space for your team: To be open to their feelings, thoughts and feedback, you will need to take care of your thoughts first. Do frequent thought downloads to understand your thoughts and deal with those thoughts that don’t serve you. This is where grace comes in- be forgiving of yourself and learn lessons from the mistakes that will inevitably happen.

I’m fortunate that even today, my dear friends and my old roommate are still present in my life and our bonds are stronger than ever. They are living proof that it can be done, but it must be handled purposefully, carefully with lots of grace for all.

How have you made these transitions? Let’s keep the conversations going.

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