Many people aspire to be a leader. Some of those people make it. Most don’t. That’s the stark reality when you aim high in your career or business.
What makes some people reach a position of leadership? Why do others stay behind? While there are many factors that can influence your journey to leadership, I have found that there is one major blind spot that can stop aspiring leaders in their tracks. That blind spot is: thinking your work vouches for you.
I call this a blind spot because for many people, thinking their work vouches for them can lead them into a false sense of security. They think, if they keep their head down and produce good quality work, their efforts will be noticed and rewarded. This is exactly what we’re taught in formal education. Why would we question this?
In the business world, producing good quality work only gets you so far. If you want to reach a position of leadership, you also must have a strong, influential reputation. A personal brand that makes you stand out. Ideas and opinions that are recognised. You also need to be connected to decision-makers who can help you rise higher.
In the business world, producing good quality work only gets you so far.
None of the above have much to do with the amount or quality of work you produce. Your brand, reputation and connections are a separate and distinct part of building your leadership profile that you, as an aspiring leader, must start managing.
Here are three ways you can work on a leadership profile that is strong, influential, and respected.
1. Decide on how you want others to see you
This is an important step in building a distinct personal brand. When I work with my coaching clients, the second task I set for them is to dream, imagine and decide how they want to be seen by others. Do you want to be seen as forward-thinking and innovative? Do you want to be seen as approachable and friendly? Do you want to be seen as powerful and authoritative?
Your answers will depend on your values, strengths, position, responsibilities, industry, and goals. Once you have decided this, every other aspect of your personal brand, from your outward leadership presence to your public profile, will be guided by the personal brand you decide on.
2. Flag the topics you want to highlight during business meetings
If you remain quiet in business meetings and let everyone else do the talking, how will any of those people in that room know how wonderful your ideas and opinions are? Chances are, they won’t – ever! As long as you keep quiet, your thoughts, ideas and opinions will remain unknown. I understand that it might be daunting to speak up and claim your space in the conversation, but if you aspire to a leadership position, you have no other choice.
One suggestion I present to my coaching clients is before the meeting, write down a list of 2-3 topics you want to talk about or opinions you want to divulge during the meeting. They need to be clear in your mind before you walk into the room. This will allow you to walk into the meeting room knowing what you want to say, and give you the ability to jump into conversations when those topics arise.
As long as you keep quiet, your thoughts, ideas and opinions will remain unknown.
3. Schedule 30 minutes every week to relationship building
When I see my clients workload get heavy, the first thing that suffers is that person’s networking and relationship building. The more responsibility you take on, the busier you get, and the less time you’re willing to devote to building business relationships. Functional tasks take over and networking loses its importance. That’s one side of the story that you may comfortably tell yourself.
The other side is while you’re in the office, busy with those functional tasks, your competitors and peers are out there networking. They’re connecting with decision-makers. They’re pitching to potential clients. They’re seeking partners to grow their business. They’re getting recognised as a leader.
If you do not want to lose precious ground to your competition, face how competitive your world is. Start by scheduling into your diary right now, 30 minutes every week to build your network. Fridays work well for most of my clients. Choose a day that best suits you.
Leadership isn’t rocket science. It’s often about taking steps that others aren’t willing to do or haven’t yet seen. I hope these three tips have given you an insight into the changes you need to make to prepare yourself for leadership.