Effective Leadership By Mick Ukleja
May 21st, 2013 - According to current research, about 30 percent of a person’s leadership ability is genetic, and the rest is learned – but not necessarily in school. Stem cells are waiting to be developed. Much of that which is learned comes through life experiences. The contributions of life cannot be overlooked. Challenges, hardships, work experiences, education, colleagues, direct and indirect role models and personal outlook contribute to our ability to lead.
Learning through doing is one of the greatest ways to lead. John Kotter’s research1 in this field suggests ways to take charge of your own leadership development. Here are five tips for being intentional about your growth . . . in descending order.
#5 – PICK YOUR SPOT
Some departments and divisions are better than others. Some teams have more to offer than others. They offer broader exposure, better teammates and more challenging assignments than others. Some will provide better coaching and mentoring. Keep your eyes open and land on the best spot possible.
#4 – SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUCCESS
Warren Bennis talks about being a first class noticer. Keep your eyes open and look for those mentors and role models. Observe and learn. You need to be in charge of your own personal career and development. Learn to reach up and develop the relationships where tacit knowledge can be learned. You won’t find this in your job description, handbook or policy manual, which is explicit knowledge. Learning from someone else’s experience is worth much but costs little.
#3 – VOLUNTEER FOR THE TOUGH JOBS
Since others are avoiding them, doing this will definitely get noticed! It’s a no-lose situation. You will be challenged and learning will increase. People will sing your praises. You show you’re not afraid to get in the trench and do what’s best for the team. And remember that people can’t promote what they don’t notice!
#2 – WORK ON A TEAM
This could be a work group that is taking on a special assignment. It will get you outside of your typical work role and expose you to new challenges. But the exposure doesn’t stop there! Others have gifts, skills and strengths that you don’t possess, or at least have not developed until this point. And since everyone shares in the work, you will be more likely to succeed. Since most assignments are high profile and come from the top, your chances of being noticed are greater.
#1 – TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES
A lot of companies offer these. They might even be incentivized. If it’s after hours, do it anyway. Don’t waste your time on the ineffective ones. Do your research. How do you spot the good ones from the mediocre ones? Ask questions. Look for references from those who have been there.
Here is one final word. There is a lot of information out today about finding your passion. I agree with that goal. The problem comes when people start looking for their passion as though it is out there somewhere hiding. It is good to find your passion. Yet I think another exercise is to become passionate. Learn to become passionate about what you are doing. You will have a much better chance of finding the thing(s) you are passionate about.
You bring “added value” when you make yourself useful where you are. Being useful and finding your passion work hand in hand.
1J.P. Kotter, Force For Change: How Leadership Differs from Management
(Kotter surveyed 200 executives at highly successful companies and interviewed 12 individuals in depth. Early in their careers they had opportunities to take risks and to learn from their successes and failures. He identified several things as important developmental opportunities. I’ve picked five that seem especially relevant.)