Build Leadership Skills … Now!

Leadership“Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”Vince Lombardi, Football Coach

That advice also applies to our careers. If you aspire to ever higher levels of leadership, you must begin or continue to build the necessary skills. Of course the other component is to do the hard work to prepare yourself and gain recognition within your organization or profession. Organizations often have a succession planning function with the objective of retaining talented people. Most organizations realize that recruiting new talent is expensive and there is a degree of risk involved with any outside hire.

Korn Ferry, a talent management organization, conducted a global succession planning survey that assessed how companies identified and developed future leaders. Stu Cardell, SVP of Global Offerings, says that, “The results show us that people are promoted for what they can do, but fail for who they are.”

You’ve probably seen, in your own experience, what happens when the wrong criteria were used to promote someone. It is easy for companies to fall into the trap of promoting top performers. This is known as the Peter Principle. While top performers were great at the job, they may lack the characteristics and skills to be effective in the new role. For example, a top performing salesperson may not always have the ability to motivate a team and develop strategies that best meet the corporation’s financial objectives. Without these skills, the newly promoted sales manager would most likely struggle.

If your goal is to increase your responsibility and leadership, you should begin or continue to develop the skills and traits valued in a leader so that you are recognized within your organization or profession as being competent and capable.

Start with these seven signs of leadership identified by Korn Ferry:

1. A track record of formative experiences. Have you successfully handled any of the job requirements in leadership roles?
2. Learning agility. Have you taken what you’ve learned from previous experiences and applied it in different or new situations?
3. Self-awareness. Do you solicit feedback? Have you identified your strengths and weaknesses? Are you taking steps to improve where necessary?
4. Leadership traits. What qualities have you demonstrated that would be valued in more senior positions? Popular leadership traits include decisiveness, honesty and assertiveness.
5. The drive to be a leader. Do you seek out more challenging opportunities inside and outside of work?
6. Aptitude for logic and reasoning. How well do you analyze information, create innovative solutions to complex problems and develop strategies for improvement?
7. Management of derailment risks. Do you know what personal failure looks like? What are you doing to keep yourself on the leadership track? How are you keeping up to date and continuing to be well-respected?

The good news is that you can develop all of these qualities nor do you need your manager’s permission or company-sponsored training to begin upgrading your qualifications.

You should also keep written documentation of your successes, and as you begin improving your skills in these areas, document them. Add these successes to your résumé and LinkedIn profile, and share them with your manager. If possible, schedule regular conversations with your manager to lay out your successes, goals and expectations. This development meeting gives you a chance to highlight your achievements while also providing a reality check on your goals. Key traits of a good leader are that they solicit feedback, know their strengths and weaknesses and take steps to improve themselves.

If your current employer cannot offer you an increase in responsibility, the hard work you’ve invested will pave the way for a stronger résumé that highlights many of the leadership qualities valuable to another company. Simply stated, you can pitch yourself to an organization that WILL value the leadership skills that you bring to the table.

Related Articles: Leading With a Compass  and   Your Leadership … + or – ?

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Leadership, Professional Skills

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