Preparing for a Leadership Role
Taking on more responsibility at work is not always synonymous with career or financial advancement. The healthiest approach to securing a leadership opportunity is to assume there’ll be no monetary or status reward; take on the new challenge for it’s own sake, do it to the best of your abilities and the rewards will naturally follow.
By simply identifying a leadership opportunity, you’ve already demonstrated one of the key skills required of leaders: the ability to recognise opportunities when they present themselves. Evaluating and positioning yourself to take advantage of those opportunities are the next steps.
What I learnt from my own experience of working in a large blue chip company, and advancing from the ‘new starter’ to the Group General Manager, was that if you conduct yourself in the right way at work, leadership opportunities will come to you. So here is my take on five ways to present yourself as a future leader:
- Know Your Organization inside out. Make it your business to become well-acquainted with the day-to-day running of every department. The bigger your picture, the easier it is to spot opportunities, and the more understanding you acquire about your company and its people, the more prepared you will be to lead.
- Stand Out. Wallflowers don’t get promoted to leadership roles, so make sure people know who you are and more importantly what value you bring to the table. Figuring out how to make your presence felt without being obnoxious is one of the hardest skills to develop. If you can do it, you’ll win the respect of your peers and your managers.
- Be Easy to Work With. If you can’t take criticism or have a reputation for being difficult, people – and opportunities – will give you a wide berth.
- Solve Problems. Look for weak spots in the running of your organisation and devise practical solutions. If you save time and money for your employers, by identifying a better way of doing things, the value you add can be easily quantified. Again, this is something of a balancing act. Spotting the ‘weak links’ or barriers in a business could be perceived as criticising the work of others. So, be sure that you are always playing the ball, not the man.
- Work and act like a leader. Perception is reality, so the more you present yourself as an innovator and a safe pair of hands, the more opportunities will come your way. Management loves a volunteer. Be one.
Taking the Leap
As you move up the management hierarchy it can be tough to actually make the transition from team member to team leader. You were likely promoted because of your ability to get things done. Now, your job is to get those same results from others. Not everyone is capable of delegating, but it’s one of the identifying characteristics of a leader.
It’s essential that you trust the people you work with. If you can’t place your faith in the team you’ll be leading then either don’t seek out the leadership role or start to think about the changes you may need to make. As a mentor once told me early in my management career ‘If you don’t get your fingers burnt at least once a year, then you’re not trusting your people enough’. Effective leaders are confident enough to give people the freedom and support to realise their potential. It can be a hard lesson to learn, but as long as you don’t feel undermined by the success (or occasional failure) of others, the fruits of your collaboration will be richer. If you disagree with others, clearly communicate the reasons. But be truly open to ideas and you will learn to tell the good from the bad. As a rule of thumb, listen twice as much as you speak.
Above all, be authentic. Keeping up an appearance of what you think constitutes a strong ‘leadership style’ is untenable in the long run. The cracks in the facade will begin to show. By being genuine and honest, you eliminate that stress. Trust in your own leadership ability and the rest will follow!
Matt is a Director of The Talent Hive and leads the Engineering recruitment practice within the business. Originally from the UK he’s been living in New Zealand for 11 years. Matt is a retired ‘amateur’ athlete who has given up chasing great marathon times for chasing his young children around the park, a far more worthy (if not exhausting) pursuit.
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Categorised as: Career Development