(This post is the 12th in my Career Strategies alphabet series)
We know the assumption of leadership qualities/skills comes with position titles such as team lead, supervisor, manager, director and the like. While much of the time that assumption is correct, it is not always the case. A person can be in a formal leadership position and still struggle with leadership behaviors. We’ve all had a boss in our past that left us shaking our heads.
How can you develop and flex your leadership skills and have your efforts be noticed? Here are six suggestions you can be implement no matter where you are in the company hierarchy. All are in your control and all will get you noticed in a favorable light.
- Be Visible. You can’t be noticed if you are never seen. Get rid of the idea that “my good work will speak for itself.” Yes, it might and it might not. Being visible, known by others outside your department, and missed when not there will get you noticed. How to do this?
Keep your ear to the ground and volunteer to be part of projects, cross-functional teams, and taskforces. Ask if you can help, then pitch in. Yes, you already have a lot on your plate. Think like it’s Thanksgiving and squeeze on a bit more. Get out of your cube/office/department. Walk around.
Get to know people both up and down the hierarchy. Chat with people. If you see the same people on the elevator each morning, say hello. The more people you know, the wider your visibility.
2. Be a Motivator. As you take interest in others they will share with you. Cheer them on. Not in a Mary Sunshine way, but in that “it’s great you’re in school. Balancing school with work takes real time management” fashion. Ask questions rather than give advice when presented with someone’s problem. When you, as Ken Blanchard says “catch someone doing something right” let them know you noticed. Peers and bosses enjoy getting deserved kudos too.
3. Delegate for Learning. If you are in a position to delegate to others, delegate so they learn the whole task not just the parts you don’t have time for. Helping others develop and feel ownership for a task is a leadership skill. If they make a mistake, ask questions so they can have the satisfaction of correcting their mistake and do a better job next time.
4. Walk the Talk. Be true to your values. Part of being seen as a leader is being respected, not through fear but because your words and actions are consistent. Leaders who ascribe to “do as I say not as I do” are leaders in name only. Set the example. If you’ve never taken a values survey, go online and find one. They are usually short and eye opening, not in that you have values, but in which ones are most important when push comes to shove.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate. The most valued skill in a leader is communication. Be clear and concise in your communication whether written or verbal. Work to know what you are going to say before you say it. This is harder for some than for others. I speak from experience. Use strong words.
Don’t apologize if you have done nothing wrong (ex: I’m sorry but I think there is another way to do this.) Avoid asking for permission when none is needed (ex: We need to look into this more, ok?) and don’t ask a question when you are really making a statement (ex: Don’t you think this is the best solution?” vs. “I think this is the best solution.”)
6. Find Alternative Situations to Use/Practice Your Skills. There are places other than work where leadership skills can be honed and tested. Your house of worship, your child’s school, your homeowners association, and your community are always looking for people to step up and help. These are places where your title at work means little. What you bring to the table is what counts. Here you can practice the techniques you may be concerned about “trying out” on your job. As your confidence grows outside of work, it will begin to come to work with you.
This is a short list of ways to increase your leadership skills and reputation. Read everything you can about leadership. Go on-line to read blogs on leadership and you will see a pattern emerging after just a few. I’ve listed one below to get you started. You can also read/listen to books on leadership. Not all are dry tomes. Here is a list of some of my favorites.
- Stewardship (Block)
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey)
- Lean In (Sandberg)
- Primal Leadership (Goleman)
- Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman (Evans)