In each review since I started at my current position, my manager has stressed that he is looking for someone to "step up and take a leadership role". I was hired just as his longest-working employee left, and was brought in as a "not-quite-senior" developer. Given this, I modified how I approached the 2 newer developers as well as the entire team in general (there are 4 of us plus the manager).

Now, people are coming to me for suggestions and hints to things, as I do have the most experience in the industry, and have a pretty extensive knowledge base. I've put several procedures in place for management of errors, code repositories, processes to deal with Help Desk issues, all with my manager's approval.

In the latest review he's back to asserting he "needs a leader". I'm not sure what else I can do to move into the role he is very obviously (to my mind) trying to shift me into. I've learned the products that I'm not versed in, I've learned new tech, I've mentored and assisted my co-workers. How can I step up, or how can I determine what he means by stepping up to be a leader?

  • 9
    Have you asked him what he's looking for that you're not providing?
    – David K
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 17:07
  • 4
    "What am I missing?" This is an excellent question which you should ask your manager.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 17:14
  • @JoeStrazzere Most often it's very vague when he does respond. Mostly it seems like he wants someone to take some of his workload off (considerable, since he took on all of the previous employee's duties). Some of that I can provide, and have. Some I cannot just yet, as the other guy had way more experience in our system that is extensive and, in some cases, cumbersome. My two recent projects have been updating that employee's code. I will say I get rather more...complex tasks, which I think shows he trusts my skills as a programmer if nothing else. Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 18:40

2 Answers 2


What you're missing is an honest and to-the-point conversation with your boss.

Prepare a list of your achievements as you see them. I would actually draft up a document, resume style.

I would then request a one-on-one meeting some time not too long after the review. I would start by stating that I appreciate his feedback, love the job/challenges, and wish to improve.

I would then state that it feels to me like I'm failing short of the mark of being "leadership material", and would like feedback and guidance as to what is expected.

You may or may not use your list to prove that you're actually further along than your manager is aware. However, beware. This conversation is not about you arguing that you are a leader, and that your manager is simply blind to that fact. No. This conversation is about what his expectations are, and how you might meet them.

Good luck!

  • I do like the idea of a list. Lists are wonderful for this sort of thing. Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 18:40

If I had to guess, your boss is looking for you to take charge. To reach out and grab the opportunity he's giving you. Thus far you're doing good things. It sounds like you're managing down very well, but you're not managing up. You need to open a dialog with your boss, make it clear that you're actively leading, understand his expectations, and then exceed them.

Something like:

Since our last review, I've begun actively mentoring the new employees. The team has been looking to me more and more for guidance and assistance, as they know and trust my skills and opinions. I've started looking at the team holistically, and devised and implemented procedures A and B to solve problem X and Y and have seen results Z. What else would you like me to do to be the leader you need?

  • Man, I'm gonna have to un-pretty some of that. ^_^ Thanks for the suggestion on the lists, though. Commented Apr 11, 2017 at 18:41

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