From Young Gun to Top Dog
From Business NH Magazine
In the recent hit movie Up in the Air, an arrogant young MBA tries to revolutionize a corporate downsizing company by conducting scripted video firings to save on travel expenses. It does not go well. The young woman gradually discovers how much she has to learn from her much older co-workers and how little she understands the business. She emerges a more thoughtful, empathetic person who will no doubt be a much more effective leader in the future.
The movie amusingly highlights three essential truths:
1. Effective leadership is much more than coming up with a great business idea that gets you noticed. It is also the ability to listen to other people, refine ideas and inspire everyone to work together toward a common goal. It’s less about “me” and more about “us”.
2. You need to be ready for leadership. The skills that got you noticed may not be the same ones that will make you an effective leader.
3. New leaders have to have thick skin. They have to be ready for criticism, generational conflict, jealousy and isolation. Then they need to know how to win people over to their side.
10 Essential Characteristics of Leaders
Santa Clara University and the Tom Peters Group compiled this checklist of key characteristics of good leaders.
1. Honest - Display sincerity, integrity, and candor in all your actions. Deceptive behavior will not inspire trust.
2. Competent - Base your actions on reason and moral principles. Do not make decisions based on childlike emotional desires or feelings.
3. Forward-looking - Set goals and have a vision of the future. The vision must be owned throughout the organization. Effective leaders envision what they want and how to get it. They habitually pick priorities stemming from their basic values.
4. Inspiring - Display confidence in all that you do. By showing endurance in mental, physical, and spiritual stamina, you will inspire others to reach for new heights. Take charge when necessary.
5. Intelligent - Read, study, and seek challenging assignments.
6. Fair-minded - Show fair treatment to all people. Prejudice is the enemy of justice. Display empathy by being sensitive to the feelings, values, interests, and well-being of others.
7. Broad-minded - Seek out diversity.
8. Courageous - Have the perseverance to accomplish a goal, regardless of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Display a confident calmness when under stress.
9. Straightforward - Use sound judgment to make good decisions at the right time.
10. Imaginative - Make timely and appropriate changes in your thinking, plans, and methods. Show creativity by thinking of new and better goals, ideas, and solutions to problems. Be innovative!
How to Prepare for Leadership
Realistically assess your strengths and weaknesses. Are you great at coming up with ideas but not so good at communicating the new ideas to others? Terrified at public speaking? Disorganized? Take a hard look at your weaknesses and develop a plan to address them. For example, enroll in your local Toastmasters chapter to practice public speaking or ask a mentor to help you improve your writing skills.
Find out what others think about you and your leadership potential. Ask for honest, one-on-one feedback or take advantage of a formal 360° survey if your company’s human resources department offers such reviews.
Go above and beyond. Volunteer for opportunities to take on special projects or lead work groups. Ask to participate if your company offers a mentor or leadership development program. Present a new idea, attend workshops and trainings, stay current with your industry’s news and take advantage of every opportunity to show your dedication and interest.
Build relationships. Do the leaders in your company know who you are? Will they think of you when a leadership opportunity arises? If not, it’s time to work on relationship building. Ask someone whose career you particularly admire if he or she would consider mentoring you or at least serve as a sounding board for you. Make a point to hold a brief conversation with key decision-makers at company outings and events. Volunteer to speak at a company meeting on a topic you know about or report back about key points that were presented at a conference. Toot your own horn carefully so you become known as a competent, knowledgeable contributor.
Get known in your industry. Enhance your knowledge, skills and networking opportunities through industry trade groups. Volunteer for committees and take advantage of opportunities to assume leadership roles.
Have a firm grasp on reality. Are there opportunities to move into leadership positions in your company? Does the workplace culture fit with your leadership and work style? Have a frank discussion with your superiors about your move-up potential.
Pitfalls for Young Leaders
You’ve got a new job with a more impressive title. Your skills have been recognized. You’re feeling great. You’re excited about the tasks ahead of you. And then reality sets in.
True leadership is not about power, paycheck or status. It is about respect. After all, without respect, there is no trust. Without trust, cooperative work becomes impossible and results plummet. In your quest to become or remain a young leader, never lose sight of the importance of respect. If you respect the opinions and work of those around you and earn their respect in return, you are well on your way to becoming a true leader.
Sapphire Consulting, LLC.