Have you ever been promoted and thought, “I really shouldn’t be here, I don’t know what I’m doing, they’re going to find out?” That kind of imposter syndrome thing comes up. And it’s really only because it’s something new, and all you have to do is acclimatise! Acclimatising is about adjusting to a new norm, just as you when you visit a country in a different hemisphere and it takes a while to adjust to the heat (or cold).

Boundless Leadership is about the relentless pursuit of a better future. Embracing new opportunities and roles should feel effortless and on track. The opposite is often the case! Our old inner world, setpoint, and paradigm can hold us back, dragging back from boundless edge of possibilities.

I’ve not a new client, let’s call him Andrew. He has been elevated to boss status. He’s gone from being a buddy amongst the team to a new boss. His question to me was, “When I go and have beers with them, just like I used to, how do I handle the tricky questions? It’s like they have me captive and they want to get the inside scoop.”

I asked him, “What do you currently do?” And he said, “I avoid the topic and just change the subject.” This is one of the challenges we have when we go from buddy to boss: new boundaries need to be established. We’re still the same old person, and yet people treat us differently. There’s an invisible barrier that goes up around us when we step into a new level.

There’s a couple of things that we need to keep in mind whenever we are going from buddy to boss if that’s your situation, or whether you’re assisting somebody going from buddy to boss. Or indeed if you’ve moved into a new role where you are more visible and there’s a heap more expectation.

Here are my three steps, my three recommendations to help you navigate this new level. I call it acclimatising for leaders. There’s always an adjustment period as we discover who we need to be and how we need to be in handling these new roles.


The first piece is looking at your identity. Who are you now that you’re in this role? And I don’t mean that as a challenge, it’s a serious question, who do you need to be in order to do this role well?

I think there’s a couple of things we can keep in mind. I think we just need to realise that we need to be brave and be comfortable with being visible. We are there because we have a custodianship and a responsibility to others in guiding them through whatever task, or project, or goal we have set as the leader for that business unit, or business itself. Step up, be brave.

The second piece is to really live into the skin of the leader that you need to be in that role. The only way to do that is to lead as if. Pretend you’ve already got it nailed. Look at somebody else who’s been in that role and how successful they’ve been, and work towards doing what they do. Acting as if goes a long way to getting used to being in the skin of the leader you want to become.

The third element around identity is just to serve more. That takes us out of our own inner voice, our own inner dialog about how useless we are, or how not up to it we are, and gets us focused on others. And when we’re serving others, all that ego stuff drops away. It also helps us, ironically, get the skills and attributes that we need in order to step into that identity.


The second part is acclimatising is around responsibility. New roles have new responsibilities. The first one is to honour confidences. Often if we get a promotion, we get privy to new inside information we haven’t had before. And we need to treat that with the utmost respect and confidentiality, otherwise we won’t be trusted in our new inner circle, and we won’t demonstrate that we have truly embraced what it means to be a leader. Some things we need to keep within circles for legal reasons, or for competitive reasons, and so on for the business. So, step up and be confidential, honour confidences.

The second piece of responsibility is to consolidate skills. We might need to practice, if we’re a new leader, giving feedback, receiving feedback, having difficult conversations. Maybe we need to practice delegating, that’s often a big one that new leaders struggle with. Practice, practice, practice. Get better with the fundamentals of the new role.

The third piece is to expand our scope in the responsibilities that we have. When we get elevated to new roles, all of a sudden there’s a new context in which we need to navigate, and often that means keeping in mind different aspects of what’s around us. The scope is pretty important, so look bigger and wider. This will help expand leadership thinking and ability to contribute.


The third aspect of acclimatising is about community. When we get elevated above our buddies to being the boss, we can’t rely on that old social network for social support. We need a new social network. We need a new social network with people who are already doing the roles that we have been put into. Within that community, seek support. Ask for advice, get a sounding board. A lot of people have been doing those types of roles for a long time, have seen and done a lot of things. We can learn from their lessons, insight and experience.

Within that community though, don’t just be a learner, don’t be just the taker. Be a giver too, according to Adam Grant, and seek to uplift others. Encourage others, praise others, acknowledge them, celebrate their successes too. We can help the community grow and be strong. And the last piece around community is that it allows us to settle the setpoint. When we move to a new level in our business, or in our leadership, it takes some adjustment. As we have surrounded ourselves with people who are already doing that, it helps make the new level, the new milestones, seem like the new normal. That’s the critical part. And so that’s how we know we’re getting acclimatised.

With identity, responsibility, and community, we have a best way of navigating the new lofty heights of leadership.

Have you moved into a new role? How have you anchored your new identity? Do you have a community of like-minded peers to help you acclimatise?



  • Zoë Routh

    Australia's Leadership Expert, Author of Book of the Year "People Stuff" l Speaker l Mentor l Strategist

    Zoë Routh is one of Australia’s leading experts on people stuff - the stuff that gets in our way of producing results, and the stuff that lights us up. She works with the growers, makers, builders to make people stuff fun and practical.

    Zoë is the author of four books: Composure - How centered leaders make the biggest impact,  Moments - Leadership when it matters most, Loyalty - Stop unwanted staff turnover, boost engagement, and build lifelong advocates, and People Stuff - Beyond Personalities: An advanced handbook for leadership. People Stuff was awarded Book of the Year 2020 by the Smart WFM Australian Business Book Awards.

    Zoë is also the producer of The Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast.