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Leadership candidates are carefully selected and often tapped for advancement because they have consistently demonstrated a variety of skills, behaviors, and talents that are valued by the executives at the company. You will want to consider what it means to be a leader long before you become one because it’s a very different role than an individual contributor. A promotion to leadership should be taken seriously. A boss, coach, or mentor can often help you identify areas that need development in order for you to be ready for leadership. Start by knowing your strengths then rate your performance and abilities in each of these 7 areas. You will want to ask someone else to rate you as well to see how your answers compare.

Be self-aware.

  • Be aware of how you are showing up and the impact you are having on others.  You must be able to regulate your approach to match your audience.  Know your natural talents and where you excel. Simultaneously, know where you still need to grow and develop. Keep your ego in check by regulating your emotions. Emotionally volatile individuals rarely get promoted to leadership. One of the best ways to increase your self-awareness is to regularly ask for feedback and then listen with an ear to learn.

Be in integrity.

  • Integrity will be the bedrock of your reputation.  As a leader you will be counted on to do what you say you will do. You will be watched and your team will model your actions. Be careful not to over-promise and under-deliver.  Hold people accountable but not without clear expectations. To model integrity, start with the simple act of being on time, every time.  

Be a self-starter.

  • As a leader you will be expected to take initiative and make decisions.  You will not have the luxury of waiting for someone to tell you what to do. Be a self-starter by moving plans into actions, assigning deadlines and holding people (and yourself) accountable. Be the one who goes first or volunteers for a project.

Be a problem solver.

  • When it comes right down to it, business is about problem solving.  You will be expected to find creative solutions to hard problems.  Approach problems objectively and consider numerous solutions. Tap into those who think differently than you do because they will bring a lens to problem solving that you do not.  Always be prepared to recommend a solution after a thorough vetting process. 

Be committed to professional development.

  • Good leaders are always growing. Create an annual professional development strategy that keeps you committed to improving your leadership abilities. Ask yourself, “By the end of this year what do I want to do better or how do I want to be better? You may also want to find a coach or mentor that can act as a sounding board and provide objective guidance for your growth and development.

Make sure you really like people.

  • As a leader you are responsible for people.  Your job is to grow your people and help them perform at the highest level.  You will be met with unexpected challenges, differing work ethics, and emotional turbulence.  Putting the right people in the right seats doing what they do best will be your biggest challenge. Start now by putting together a small team of diverse individuals and creating a plan to get the best out of each of them.

Be money mindful.

  • You may be great with people, but effective leaders are also financially savvy.  Learn to read and interpret a profit and loss statement and balance sheet.  Understand the cash flow statement and its impact on the business.  You don’t need to be a financial wizard, but you do need to understand the numbers. Ask a CFO or accounting director to give you a real world education in financial know-how.

Leadership can be very rewarding if you set yourself up for success. Dress the part. Think the part. Be the part before you’ve ever been given the part.

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Sara Harvey

Founder & President, innertelligence

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