With a new year in front of us, you may be wondering what professional goals to focus on. Technical skills and new certifications may come to mind, but if you really want to invest in something that will improve your career prospects for years to come, don’t neglect soft skills. Time and again, hiring managers note a lack of soft skills, including leadership, in candidates at every level. It is not something exclusive to our community. It applies to any position in any industry.
Here’s the Secret
Simply put, the essence of true leadership is making those around you better. Leadership is not pushing yourself to the front of the line at the expense of others. It is not simply achieving a title and becoming the boss so that you can direct others. It is not holding on to information so that others have to come to you to get things done. A leader will be recognized by the effectiveness of their work, and how he or she helps others to be effective and excel in their assigned roles. The proof of good leadership is how you shape and produce new leaders.
“But I’m Not a Leader.”
You may be thinking that since you are in a non-leadership role, this information is not for you, or not for you yet, and maybe you can use it some years down the road. Wrong. You need this now. The first thing to understand is that being a leader is not dependent on your title. It is who you are and how you conduct yourself, whether you are a member of a team or the designated team supervisor. You demonstrate your leadership capacity by the example that you set, the actions that you take, and your approach to the tasks that comprise your role within the workplace.
Understand your role
Learn your job well. The demonstration of your leadership can begin when you start a new position. You may not have the job mastered yet, but how you approach your tasks shows your leadership potential. Identify your area of responsibility, learn each task, and master them. Understand the function of your department and mission. Identify the inputs and outputs, the interface points. Contribute in all areas. Offer suggestions on improvements. Now, here is where leadership begins. It may sound counterintuitive, particularly if you want to stand out from fellow employees, but it works. Help others to be successful. Share your knowledge and techniques. By demonstrating the qualities of leadership day in and day out, you will be a leader and it will be noticed.
When Do I Start?
Start now. Master your current role, cross-train to gain additional experience, and make your organization more efficient and effective, more likely to achieve its assigned mission goals. This goes beyond the workplace. Real leadership, while effective and impactful in the workplace, transcends the professional environment. It is who you are as an individual. It is how you lead your family. Even age does not matter. If I may be a proud father for a moment, I taught these principles to my sons while they were still in elementary school. I relished the little stories of how they demonstrated leadership among their friends. By the time they joined the workforce and took on professional positions, they knew how to demonstrate this very important quality of leadership because it had become a part of them. I watched both of them promoted at young ages. They mastered their role, and they made those around them better.
Be a leader. Tell your children that they are leaders also, and explain to them how a leader acts and what a leader does. After all, this too is leadership.