Leadership is a big buzzword in the career world these days, with many people wondering how they can demonstrate it even when they’re in a new or junior role with their company. There are a number of ways to look at this concept, and many different ways to execute it, but at the heart of leadership there are three core elements:
Having a Reason to Lead
Many of our clients in leadership presence development come to us because they’ve discovered that as they have progressed in their careers, they want to share their insight and experience with others, to pave the way for those who are trekking behind them. Usually this takes the form of identifying a gap in the way their organization runs, or a space for potential industry growth that’s got them fired up and ready to add value. For women in particular, it may be sharing the experience of working in a male-dominated field or having to adjust to the male pattern of leadership in order to succeed. Whatever the reason, all of the great leaders have a big ‘why’ behind their desire to help others or to blaze a trail.
If you’re feeling the desire to step up, take some time to reflect on what specifically your inspiration might be. For example, in my industry I notice that there is a lot of ‘burn and churn’, where young consultants get all fired up about the image industry but fall off when they hit the ‘hard work’ wall and don’t know how to grow their businesses, or they want to consult but not have a business. Opening opportunities for others to be employed in our industry is a key ‘why’ in my plan. When you pause to reflect on your ‘why’, you can then focus your skill development on those areas where you need to grow in order to lead.
Having a Desire to Learn
All of the great leaders have also been great learners. They are humble in their approach and realize that everyone is on their own path to success. Take some time to think about what you can learn from the people you want to lead as well as from the people you follow and track that back to your ‘why’. If you want to lead junior staff, find out their biggest challenges – remember that it’s difficult not to know what you know and that things have likely changed for the people behind you.
Tie their experience and challenges to your leadership focus and see where it aligns with your big ‘why’. Once you’ve parsed that out, look for sources of leadership for yourself, to see who can help you become the leader you want to be. Always keep learning.
Having a Team to Build
In all the great leaders, there is a sense of inclusivity in their practice. They are compassionate with new learners and high achievers alike and excel in meeting people where they are at. They give credit where it’s due. They engage actively with their people. They recognize that although there is an individual component to leadership and growth, the biggest gains are often made in community. They spend time listening, evaluating and watching how their leadership is being received in order to build on things that are working well and let go of things that aren’t. Take some time to think about the qualities of the people you most enjoy and most want to serve and begin to look for ways to encourage the building of a community. It can be as small as leading a group of hiking buddies to greater heights, or as big as doubling your company’s size in a short period of time. Keep your eye on the community.
A lot of people talk about inspiring their people, leading through influence rather than authority, but don’t always come up with ideas on how to do it. Keeping these three principles in mind whenever you’re considering a leadership opportunity will help you make key decisions on where to spend your time and energy. Watch for ways to tie your ‘why’ and ‘learning’ to the team and what they’re up to and inspiration and influence will come as people see your clear mission in action.
Let us know how these principles landed; we’d love to hear your reflections!