You walk back to your desk, frustrated, disappointed, and confused. You should've been given the lead on that project. At your last one-on-one meeting with your manager, you discussed your desire for more responsibility, and they assured you that you’d have that opportunity. So why had you been passed over—again? If you did well leading this project, you knew it would pave the way to a promotion. What was the disconnect? You have small opportunities to lead but have never led a project of this scale. It’s time to prove to yourself, your manager, and your colleagues that you’re ready to take on more and you’re capable of leading a team to success.
Whether you feel stagnant in your current leadership role or itching for more responsibility, leaders are learners. It requires constant self-evaluation and dedication to grow in your leadership capabilities. At Front Line Leadership, our programs were designed to shape leaders and managers by giving them the tools they need to grow in their roles and empower their teams to reach higher levels of collaboration and performance. Below are five ways you can grow as a leader with a practical step you can implement today.
1. Practice Discipline
Discipline in your professional and personal life is necessary to reach your goals. Your superiors will subconsciously determine your ability to effectively lead based on the amount of discipline you display at work. If you are not an organized person, discipline probably does not come naturally. But that is not an excuse to refuse to practice discipline. You can practice this skill in the workplace by showing up for your appointments, ending meetings on time, meeting your deadlines, and responding to emails and messages promptly. The best way to begin practicing discipline is by starting small. Don’t attempt to change every behavior, or alter your schedule, immediately. Start by giving yourself a clear goal or expectation that helps you practice discipline in your professional and personal life.
Starting Now: Insert an intentional form of discipline into your daily routine by waking up thirty minutes earlier to exercise, making your bed after you wake up, or eliminating sodas. At the office, respond to unread emails before you leave work, arrive five minutes early to every meeting, or put your cell phone on “Do Not Disturb” so that you don’t get sidetracked by non-work-related notifications.
2. Develop Situational Awareness
A good leader can anticipate and solve problems before they become an emergency. You will gain respect and recognition when you analyze an overlooked problem and spearhead a solution. When well attuned to your team and the project, you can effectively see potential roadblocks and put the right people in the right place.
Starting Now: Make a list of the people on your team and note their strengths and weaknesses. Based on their current roles, you can discern where issues might develop and put a plan in place to address them.
3. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
A good leader is willing to go above and beyond for the success of the team. If you hope to prove you are ready for a leadership role, do more than your job's requirements. This may mean you must step out of your comfort zone, learn a new skill, or reach out to your counterpart in another department. The men and women who show initiative and do more than the bare minimum are recognized quickly by executives.
Starting Now: Establish a weak spot on your team, and work to fill that gap. We don’t mean for you to take on more than you can handle. But we do encourage you to take an extra step towards growth—even if that means doing something outside your job description.
4. Be a Team Player
A good leader helps everyone on his team shine. You may be afraid that letting others “win" will take away from your personal success. But that’s simply not true. In fact, you will receive more praise, and your team will perform at higher levels when you play well with your team. This starts with your ability to delegate well. This is not a suggestion to shirk your responsibilities, but rather an opportunity to free you up to use your strengths and empower your teammate to use theirs. Give away tasks to the men and women on your team who are best qualified. Then, give recognition and praise to show your team how much you appreciate them. By doing these simple things, you empower your team to work harder and enjoy their job as well.
Starting Now: Determine what task you do regularly that, if given to someone else, will allow both of you to thrive. Publicly and specifically recognize a team member.
5. Learn How to Listen
Leaders are listeners. Make a concerted effort to learn to listen well by paying attention to body language, requesting feedback regularly, and implementing suggestions you receive from your team. Set up one-on-one conversations with your team so that you can learn what’s working, what isn’t, and what they’d like to see in their job. When you practice listening, you’ll know when you need to offer support or guidance, help colleagues resolve a conflict, or make a change based on the feedback you’ve received. Your team (and your superiors) will be more willing to go to bat for you when you show how much you value the opinions and needs of others.
Starting Now: After your next meeting, create a spreadsheet of what each team member needs or how they feel. Then, do what you can to meet the need. Practice active listening by paying close attention to body language, eye contact (or lack thereof), and facial expressions. Consider follow-up conversations to gauge how you can better support your team members.
To learn more about how to leverage your leadership to increase communication, collaboration, and performance among your employees, contact us at Front Line Leadership today.