3 Things Future Leaders Should Start Doing Now
So, you want to rise up and become a leader?
Great! The world needs more people like you.
A recent study by consulting firm Deloitte found that 90 percent of executives don’t have the leadership talent in their organizations to accomplish their goals.
Think about that.
Ninety percent of executives don’t have access to enough good leaders and believe their organizations are being held back because of it.
That’s a massive void that you can help fill.
How can you get started?
Here are three things.
First, become a role model for your team.
Become what author Patrick Lencioni calls an “Ideal Team Player.”
Yes, the leaders in your organization notice the star performers. But we rarely promote people who aren’t also team players.
We look for people who make others better, because that’s what great leaders do.
We look for team players with good people skills, because it’s easier to teach you leadership and management skills than basic people skills.
Lencioni describes an ideal team player as someone who is humble, hungry, and people smart.
Think about teammates or bosses you have struggled to work with. Chances are good they lacked one or more of those three.
They may have lacked humility, and thought their way was the best.
Or maybe they lacked hunger and were not engaged. Or getting them to take ownership of anything was a battle.
Or maybe they lacked people smarts and didn’t always interact with teammates in healthy ways.
Few of us start our careers as ideal team players. It’s normal for people to struggle in one or more of those areas, but we’re all capable of growing and getting better. We all go through a maturation process.
What can you do if you want to get better?
Start by stepping back and observing yourself through a different set of eyes.
Look at your interactions through the lens of the other person. Put yourself in their shoes. What did they want out of their interaction with you? What do you think they got?
Could you be viewed as lacking humility, hunger, or people smarts?
Be honest with yourself. And if you’re feeling ambitious, ask others for feedback. Ask if they see any blind spots that could be holding you back.
Second, start leading from where you are.
Leadership is not about authority. It’s about adopting a mindset of helping others make their best contributions.
Great leaders understand that leadership is a team sport. As a leader, I know I can’t do everything myself. I can’t be everywhere. And I need people on my team to step up and help lead.
So, if you want to be a leader, just start leading.
A few areas you can help include:
- Become a coach for your team – Coaches walk a fine line between sharing their observations and known best practices, and giving teammates the freedom and autonomy to do things their way. Start practicing now, but err on the side of letting your teammates do things their way.
- Improve clarity and alignment – Are the goals for your team clear and is everyone rowing in the same direction? This is one of the easiest areas for teammates to start leading. If you see people working towards different goals or with different standards, point it out and help everyone get on the same page.
- Build relationships – Get to know your team and stakeholders. What do they want? What are their goals and aspirations? Find ways to help them and do it with no expectation of something in return.
Want more areas to help? Dig into our leadership checklist to identify areas where your team does well and where it might struggle. Then jump in and help.
If you’re feeling ambitious, ask your manager how they need help.
Let your desire for more responsibility be known. Most bosses will appreciate it. But if they don’t, find a different boss because sitting unchallenged under a bad one will hold you back.
And volunteer for key projects and tasks. Look for opportunities both in your department and outside of it. Take ownership of initiatives that are bigger than yourself. Projects that will require you to coordinate the work of others.
Get yourself out there and just start leading from where you are.
Third, become a skilled, life-long learner.
Great leaders are great learners.
If you’re like most of us, your formal education taught you how to pass tests and write papers, not how to learn new skills and new ways of thinking over time.
But if you want to be a leader, you’ve got to get good at learning.
Why? Because, the attitude and skills that got you to this point won’t get you where you want to go. And once you get there, you’ll want to go further.
A few things you can do:
- Embrace a growth mindset – Have you ever not asked a question because you thought you’d look dumb? We all have. But for leaders to be effective, we need to know the truth. We have to be comfortable being vulnerable and asking any question or expressing any curiosity. And a growth mindset will help us do that.
- Learn how to learn – Learning is a skill just like any other, and leaders need to actively improve that skill. You can learn faster, more efficiently, and retain more of what you learn. There are plenty of books and courses that will help you become a better learner. I provide a link to one course at the end of this article.
- Be strategic about where you invest your time – The leadership domain is huge. Your industry domain is likely huge. You can’t learn it all and you don’t need to. Seek out tools like our leadership checklist to help you identify areas where you’re doing well and areas to improve.
The last thing I’ll say about learning is to plan to invest time appropriate to your long-term goals.
If you want to become a supervisor and level-off, you need to embark on one type of journey.
If you want to be mid-level manager, your journey will be longer and more intense.
If you want to be an executive or entrepreneur, even more intense.
Most supervisors need to spend about 10 hours each quarter growing and nurturing their leadership and management skills. This time can be spent reading books and articles, participating in a study group, attending conferences, or watching online courses.
Most mid-level managers need to spend about 10 hours a month.
Most executives will spend about 10 hours a week, and some will spend much more.
If you don’t enjoy learning, you won’t enjoy leading.
You should know that going into it and set your long-term career goals appropriately.
So let’s recap.
The world needs more leaders.
Your team needs you. Your boss needs you. Your school, city, and country need you.
To step up and lead.
The best way for you to get started is to:
- Become a role model for your team
- Start leading from where you are
- Become a skilled, life-long learner
Want a few books to read, courses to take, or people to follow?
- BOOK The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues by Patrick Lencioni
- BOOK The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- BOOK Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
- BOOK The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg
- COURSE Learning How to Learn: Powerful Mental Tools to Help You Master Tough Subjects by Dr. Barbara Oakley
Enjoy the journey.