The Roads that make Leaders
It really comes down to using one of two paths to obtain a leadership position. You can work your way up the ladder of the company, a common choice. Diligently showing your prowess for working with others in teams and presenting yourself as a leader. While the alternate is to bring in knowledge of leading. Through education or natural skill that can be outwardly recognized. Many times such aptitude will be seen when hiring and then you are delivered into a leadership position. Both are a journey of leadership development, that will lead to becoming a strong leader in any team.
Working up the Ladder
You’re best bet in working up a chain of promotions is to have a mentor working with you. I was lucky enough to have a mentor that not only had my best interest at heart but was enthused in watching me grow as a leader. I have worked with a number of others who didn’t have a mentor and while they ended just as strongly as I did, there was much more trial and error. Succeeding in a series of promotions allows you to work through graduated levels of leadership. Working with teams in different aspects as those working around you expand their trust in your ability to lead.
What Your Responsibilities are while Working for a Company
If you are working your way into leadership through a company you are going above and beyond the expectations all of the time. This is part of your job now, things that may never have been in the job description when you were hired are now a part of your daily concerns. Interacting with people outside of your duties and monitoring the performance of others will come long before the actual promotion will. Here’s the catch with working your way into a leadership position: you boss/company will not promote you until they know you can do all of the job. You can be doing the functions of your (hopefully) future job for six months or more. Your responsibility is your own leadership development. You cannot blame or otherwise convict another person of interfering with your ability to grow as a leader.
Making your Education Count
Use your educators to develop your understanding of what a leader is and what they do. I went through my experience in extending my education in management and it is invaluable to me. However, from a working standpoint I’ve seen many people come in with a thorough knowledge of everything that a leader should be and the execution falls short. What is meant to be kept in mind when gaining a purely theoretical knowledge of leadership is that this must be actualized. When working with people, a theoretical knowledge doesn’t always transverse into a workable skill. I’ve seen a very well educated manager remove an entire staff because they wouldn’t understand that he was the boss. In other words, he did not have the skill as a leader, but he possessed the knowledge required to manage.
Using Preexisting Knowledge establish yourself as a Leader
When utilizing a knowledge based background into leadership you need to foresee where you can bring your knowledge into the real world. I was taught a number of very effective and ‘made-for-success’ team leading tactics. Many of them also didn’t work for me. My leadership style is very transparent. I appeal to every team that I encounter by being open and forthcoming with information rather than idealizing a plan and only divulging certain aspects of it. I used formats that were built for my style.
If you have a strong one-on-one style use that. One tactic that didn’t work for me but is built for ‘one-on-one’ oriented leaders is the five minute meeting. Replace your standard thirty minute or longer group meetings by siting down with everyone individually.
If you pride yourself on your consistent high-quality results focus your team around their most recent success. Focus on the good, and market the ‘bad’ as areas to improve rather than failures.
How you Develop
It is a very simple board-game-esque situation in developing as a leader. Past the knowledge and theories you start on square one with everyone else. Working with a team you have to determine if you have built three aspects: responsibility, accountability, and communication. These three are the structural integrity of your leadership abilities.
Your responsibilities will vary greatly dependent upon your job duties however your responsibilities as a leader are forever the same. When working your way up the ladder you have a built in team you must hold concern for. Your team, and goals are the primary priorities and should be considered in every decision that you make. Most simply put, the welfare of your team and the achievement of the teams goals are the only important factors. Other ‘responsibilities’ are only influences or concerns that may affect the manner in which your team operates.
When you have an education-based background in leadership this is possibly the biggest concern that a company would have. Accountability is the trust aspect of saying you’ll do something, and actually doing it. Not a single time either; but to make this a known character aspect. Building the trust in your team that your every promise will be followed through on, and every decision will be enacted. This is a developmental point where many fail. It is an ongoing task and where you may falter once, can impact how people perceive you as a leader for long into the future.
Everyone has heard or been lectured about communicating properly. The definition of proper communication varies from person to person though. The best effort that can be made is to communicate as clearly as possible. There’s even a formula taught in many classes concerning communication. First, convey the desired result. Second, have the person or group you’re speaking with repeat it back. Finally evaluate to determine if the leader and the group have the same understanding of the tasks and outcomes. So you need to build your ability to express your needs clearly, above anything else. Being tactful or appearing as a more active listener are not the skills that will consistently give you the ability to hold your team to expectations that were clearly defined.
Building your Skills with your Team
You can be a great leader, then take over a not so receptive team and feel like you’re back fifteen or twenty years in development. You are right back at square one. The trust and accountability you have built with previous teams doesn’t translate to any new person. Never account for a reputation to proceed you so profoundly that you don’t have to deliver the same level of work as before.
Every time you begin working with someone new, take the time to build a relationship with that person. At work this is a professional relationship, and at home personal. Either requires you to contribute time into learning what sort of person they are. The primary questions to keep in mind are:
- How does this person respond to authority or direction?
- Is this response positive or negative?
- Will I need to change how I communicate to be productive and positive with this person?
You cannot ask how you can change a response, only how you can best affect their behavior.
The End Results, and Desired Outcomes
What you define as a leader is you own adaption of what you aspire to be. I have a clear line between being a leader and being a manager; a leader has a team that elects to follow you. Managers are given positional power in which those under them are required to take their direction or will face consequences for not doing so.
When I began my first job I knew that I wanted to be a leader. I directed my education to leadership and pursued every opportunity I saw. I desired to be the person that people wanted to have lead them.