4 Action Steps To Becoming A Leader
One of the hardest parts of being a leader is getting to the position and organization where you can start to make a difference because you have the power to make important decisions and implement change.
It took me a lot of years of work to get to that point.
But, here’s the thing about being a leader: it doesn’t happen overnight.
The Leader Fairy doesn’t roll up, wave a wand, and !BAM!, you’re a leader!
Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.
Being an effective leader takes time. It takes experience and a willingness to learn and to grow as a person. Because, really, you can’t ask others to make changes themselves if you aren’t willing to make the changes along with them.
The good news: there’s a lot you CAN and SHOULD be doing to reach your leadership goals. It takes some time and some strategy, but here are 4 TIPS to making it happen:
Tip #1: Think ahead. Where do you want your career to be in 3 years? 5 years? What do you want your life to ‘look’ like?
Consider: where will you live and work? How much time do you want to be working? What financial goals do you need to meet to live this life? Do you need additional training – a degree or different classes – to get there?
Start writing things down. You might not have all the answers today. Your plan is going (that’s right, g-o-i-n-g…) to change. But having a plan that you adjust is much better than simply winging it and leaving things up to chance and fate.
Tip #2: Develop a plan. Say, for example, you want to be leading the department that you are currently working in.
From what you’ve seen, you’ll need to become an assistant advisor before you can become a manager.
What sorts of things do you need to make happen to become an assistant advisor?
It’s likely a combination of things: additional training, additional facetime with key decision-makers, and time with the organization.
Make yourself a map and break these goals up into years and months if necessary. Work backwards – so if you want to be leading the department in 5 years, you’ll need to make the assistant advisor by year 3. This goal is going to require an additional 6 months of training, on top of leading a major project. Start to figure out where you can make that happen.
Tip #3: Enlist help. Find someone a few career steps ahead of you inside or outside your organization and ask them to be a mentor. This could look like whatever you both want — lunch once a quarter, coffee once a month, emails or phone calls as needed. Having someone who has been through the process — and in your corner — will be invaluable as you move forward.
Also consider telling your supervisor that you are interested in leading and want to learn more. If you aren’t sure how this will be received, consider starting small: ask to lead a specific project and ses what the reaction is.
Often times, a supervisor will be excited to hear that you want to work towards a leadership position. In these cases, the supervisor might invite you to sit in on meetings, introduce you to other leaders, or make sure you get some facetime with decision makers.
However, the caveat is that not ALL managers will react in the same way. Some supervisors might see your interest in leadership as a threat to their position, and as a result, might not help you. You might even run into situations where your supervisor may try to sabotage your mobility.
Ugh. This got negative in a hurry, didn’t it?!? This was not my intent. However, I think it would also be reckless of me to suggest that everyone is going to automatically be supportive of you wanting to work towards a leadership position.
My advice? Move cautiously. Ask questions. Listen more than you talk. Speak ‘offline’ with the people who often don’t say much in meetings and ask their opinion. Your answers will become clearer the more you listen!
Tip #4 Start small — but start now. Think about your strengths and what you love to do.
Now consider: how can I help my current team, in a different way, with my skills and abilities?
Rome wasn’t built in a day, afterall. Nor will you transform as a leader overnight. It takes time, patience, and lots of persistence to keep going.
One of the reasons that I LOVE leadership is because it takes on all different forms and is accessible to everyone. You don’t have to be a star-of-the-show-extrovert to be a successful leader. As long as someone is true to their own strengths, has a desire to help others towards a different outcome, and is willing to put the work in, anyone can be a leader.
Being a leader, though, is not always sexy and glamourous. To have your leadership shine, you might have to suggest a solution to the ugly problem that no one in your organization wants to tackle. You might have to be creative about problem solving. You might have to work different or longer hours to make it happen. You might have to find a way to work with the person who makes you bonkers.
But I promise you it will be worth it. There is nothing better than getting to the end of a project and knowing that you 1) did your best and 2) it made a positive difference to the people around you.
Hopefully people around you will notice your potential. Sometimes they won’t…but that’s not on you (and it’s probably time to look for a different organization to work for, but that’s another post for another day…)
Want to start working on your leadership skills in a tangible way? We’re starting our own mastermind community in April 2021! Click here and get on our mailing list. We’ll let you know when it’s time to register and make sure that you get the enthusiastic-participant discount!
If you’ve got questions or want to know if this is the right fit for you, holler and let’s jump on a 30-minute call to chat.
Are you ready to share your leadership experiences – and learn for the experience of others? Let’s get to work! I hope you’ll join us – it’s going to be an amazing adventure. 😀