As you grow in your role, you will be offered or identified opportunities for leadership. Are you ready? We often have unrealistic expectations and find it difficult to accept the reality of a leadership position.
Let me share some of the things I learned during my leadership journey.
Be prepared to be stretched and tested
No one is a natural leader. We bring skills and knowledge to leadership – most of which will prove useful.
Communication skills are a great asset. If you can communicate well, your ideas will be able to gain momentum quickly. If you can use numbers to help you make decisions, and if people like you, it will help build relationships with your team.
You may not have all the necessary skills. You will likely need to learn new skills and accept new tasks at some point.
You’re likely to discover some truths about yourself as part of your leadership journey. My biggest discovery was that perhaps I wasn’t as organized or structured as I thought. This was a problem I had to solve as a leader.
Attitude vs Aptitude
Although you might be a great communicator, can generate new ideas or develop detailed strategies, your attitude towards your job will determine how well you do.
Many of us have to balance leadership roles with other areas of life. Sometimes we feel like we don’t have the time or are overwhelmed by a ‘problem’.
Attitude is how you handle these constraints and challenges; how you approach your role, and how you take on its responsibilities.
If you, for example, like to take things easy but find it difficult to communicate effectively, you will need to quickly become more proactive. If you have a negative attitude towards your job, it will lead to disillusionment and disengagement.
It is amazing how quickly people notice when something isn’t being done or if a request was not answered.
No matter your skills, it is a great idea to take on a new role. There are mountains of information available on any topic these days. Fill in any knowledge gaps and learn more about your job and your task immediately.
If you choose to lead, make some promises to yourself and accept the expectations placed upon your shoulders.
Concentrating on the details
Leadership is not only about the grand visions and speeches. It also involves meeting with colleagues, motivating and inspiring your team, and seeing your vision become a reality. But behind all of this lies countless hours of hard work, which often gets lost in the details.
In my corporate strategy days, I spent a lot of time searching for information from first-hand sources and double-checking it. My work would be checked by a colleague, who would then rework it almost every time. This was a tedious process that wasn’t always enjoyable. It was worthwhile as our senior leadership team could use the process to drive the business forward.
There is a fine line between too much detail, and not enough detail. Avoid reinventing the wheel. Instead, learn from others before you make major changes.
Leadership: How to manage the costs
You can learn a lot from people you meet while traveling to exchange ideas and information. It can be exhausting to travel and jump from train to train to hotel again, as well as to work late to prepare for the next day’s presentation.
Although the physical costs of leadership can be reduced by good time management and personal discipline, it is more difficult to predict the emotional consequences. Unintended conflicts, being letdown, taking on additional work to support a colleague, these all can have a devastating effect.
Another problem is decision fatigue. Sometimes, you even have to decide what to do.