Many leaders come about the role and title by accident. Due to good technical skills, a great work ethic, seniority, or the unexpected exit of a former leader, a new leader is promoted. Without warning, and often without support or development, the new leader goes from “one of us” to “one of them.” This type of unplanned instant promotion is the root of many management and leadership problems resulting in workplace drama in the form of low morale, poor team coordination, and lowered engagement.
If you fall into this category of leaders who have been promoted without support, training and development, here are three steps you can take to start developing yourself so you can become the leader you want to be.
Step 1: Define your leadership.
Step 2: Make friends with reality.
Step 3: Build a plan to close the gap.
Step 1: Define your leadership
- What are your top two or three values?
- In order to lead by your stated values what is required of you?
- What tough decisions might you have to make in order to set a good example?
- How do you handle poor performance?
- What do you do to manage your anger and frustration?
- How do you speak?
- How do you inspire others?
After you answer these questions, put pen to paper and do some journaling. Use emotive words to describe your leadership experience and how you feel once you have become the kind of leader you want to be. You are the creator of this experience. There’s no one stopping you from developing a vision of who you want to be, how you want to be perceived, how you want to feel, and how you perform your role.
Step 2: Make friends with reality
Telling the truth is the difficult part. This step is second in the process for a reason. If you start with facing reality before you define your vision you may get discouraged. Telling yourself the truth about where you are takes courage, maturity, and a certain amount of character. As you look at what you want to create, where are in in comparison? Do you tend to allow bad behavior from your employees? Do you lose your temper? Do you make promises you can’t keep? Are you a poor planner? Do you have difficulty organizing a calendar? Has your open door become a revolving door where you are enabling victim behavior? Do your current behaviors align with the values you say you hold dear when you were defining your leadership? Now that you have completed step two, you probably have a big gap between where you are and where you want to be. In short, you have a lot of work to do.
Step 3: Build a plan to close the gap
As a leader you need to be a good planner. There’s no better way to test and train your planning abilities than to start with yourself. Your plan includes shoring up your weaknesses, developing new skills and building empowering habits. For example, part of your plan might include identifying a mentor to teach you the mindsets and skills you are lacking. Or perhaps you need to identify three or four skills or communication habits you want to acquire and design a step-by-step system to improve in these areas. What kinds of accountability systems do you need so you can measure your results, course-correct, and celebrate your accomplishments? Start thinking more like an entrepreneur -- hire your own coach or go to a conference.
It’s great when your company invests in your growth and development, but the fact is you don’t have to wait. You have choices because you are a creator. You were chosen to lead because of your character, your initiative, your work ethic or other wonderful qualities. Don’t let any company determine your worth or your ability to elevate your leadership. You don’t have to wait if you have an entrepreneurial mindset and commit to your own leadership journey. No matter how much you invest in yourself, that investment is never wasted, and always gives you a return on investment.
Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of “Stop Workplace Drama” (Wiley 2011) and “No-Drama Leadership” (Bibliomotion 2015). Visit her online at MarleneChism.com and StopWorkplaceDrama.com. Connect via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better leader and communicator.