This is the first in a series for emerging leaders focusing on tactics to manage your career.
There is a lot written about emerging leaders these days. In this day and age, we often think immediately about Millennial leaders when we hear the term “emerging leader.” However, I believe that becoming an emerging leader can happen at any time. Hallmark behaviors of these individuals may include rapid growth and development of leadership skills; taking on a new role successfully; a strong desire and potential for next level success; or demonstration of initiative on an ad hoc project.
Does this describe you? Wherever you may be in this continuum, there are certain things you should be thinking about as you establish your leadership style and impact. This series will focus on getting noticed and managing your career, including volunteering, work product, and mentorship; as well as how to stay positive and focused on your goals.
You won’t be considered as a “player” on the team if you don’t do great work. Theoretically, that goes without saying, but what does great work look like? Here are some recommendations culled from my own experience and the experience, success and failure of my own clients.
Do Great Work
Emerging leaders typically are focused on superior work product. That is the base line, perhaps the most obvious sign that you could be an emerging leader in the organization.
I believe that your relationships and “presence” impact your image as a leader as well. Your ability to manage “across” to your peers and other partners in the business is essential. Do people like working with you? Are you generous with time and information? Is your drive to do great work, supported by a curiosity and openness to other ideas and input? People who are known for great work are emerging leaders.
When it comes to curiosity, do you ask for feedback regularly? This, too, is a hallmark practice of someone who should be considered for higher level work. It is one thing to get feedback in a performance appraisal from your supervisor. It is a completely different focus and point of view when you ask your peers, direct reports if you have them, or special project teammates to provide you with honest feedback on your leadership. I find that this feedback is most effective when you ask about a specific situation or behavior. For instance, if you have just led a meeting, ask one or more of the participants to give you feedback after the meeting. Or, if you feel as though you are not clear enough sometimes, ask two or three people to provide you with feedback about the clarity of your expectations, outcomes and timeline. I believe that curiosity is an essential tool of a leader. Emerging leaders are curious.
I recommend this to anybody who asks about growing their own career, because I found volunteering to be a very helpful way to practice my growing leadership skills outside of my company. As a young leader, I became an active member of a restaurant training related organization. I jumped into volunteering immediately, mainly because it helped me meet people and I’m more comfortable when I am doing something. This 10-year membership allowed me to practice my leadership skills in a safe place, away from colleagues or bosses. But these team mates and company leaders did benefit from the skills I learned as I worked my way through the executive team of the organization. Some of the volunteer work I did was fairly easy, other projects or positions were more difficult. And through this experience, I became a more confident and knowledgeable leader who was known not only in the company I worked for, but in the industry as well.
Get a Mentor
It is often helpful to enlist a colleague who is not your boss or teammate to be a mentor to you. Ideally your supervisor would be involved in the mentor selection and goal setting; in fact, some companies have formalized programs for this, as mine did. If your company offers this opportunity, take advantage of it, if possible. If you don’t have this option, find your own mentor. I suggest that you look for someone more senior to you, who knows the “ins and outs” of the organization. This person also should have the skills you want to develop, with a strong desire to teach, develop and support your efforts in a direct, compassionate and focused manner.
To GET NOTICED as an emerging leader, practice GREAT WORK consistently. VOLUNTEER to build your leadership skills and relationships. Finally, GET A MENTOR to help you develop the depth and breadth of your leadership skills.
Look for my next Emerging Leaders blog in the coming weeks. My topic will focus on how to successfully manage your transition as you move into a more senior role.