Leadership is not a straightforward journey. It resembles a winding path that takes you through unexpected situations and provides challenges you could not have foreseen. While you can never be completely ready for a leadership post, it is possible to prepare. In this article we discuss two different ways you may view your leadership journey. It begins by outlining six fundamental steps in any leadership post before exploring the different milestones you may achieve as a leader. The article finishes by highlighting ways in which you might sustain your leadership journey.
Starting Your Leadership Journey
Before embarking on your new leadership post, take a step back and give a little thought into how you might proceed at achieving your aims. An article in the HRZONE identifies six important considerations for any leader during their new post. We have outlined these below.
Construct a journey that others will want to be a part of. You must create a sense of purpose, adventure and opportunity.
- Identify reasons for embarking on the journey.
- Establish the challenges likely to be faced in the future.
- Produce a vision statement highlighting the organisational ambitions.
Produce a road map needed to guide the journey and realise the vision. Consider where you are headed, how you will get there and what the expected contributions and incentives for individual team members are.
- Identify areas of operational focus critical to success on the journey.
- Establish the behaviours and/or values important to the organisation.
- Match the relevant areas of focus to each individual’s role.
Seek commitment to the strategy from others in the organisation. Improve communication, build trust and develop leadership capability in others to help sustain momentum.
- Identify leaders without authority.
- Carry out informal surveys to gauge commitment levels.
- Use feedback to improve overall work experience.
Help individuals motivate themselves so they can perform to their full potential. Ensure that participation, achievement and recognition are core tenants within your organisation.
- Define what is meant by high performance.
- Identify what motivates and de-motivate individuals.
- Remove any barriers to high performance that might exist.
Inspire others to innovate and actively seek new or smarter ways of working. Nurture individual talents and maximise their unique contributions. Promote high standards and continually seek to improve operational capability.
- Identify barriers to operational efficiency.
- Agree behavioural competencies for each job role.
- Educate individuals in the principle of lifelong learning.
Foster a sense of trust, pride and collective focus. Individuals should be confident in their ability to perform the most appropriate actions at all times. Create a high-performance team that can tackle any surprising challenges or unforeseen circumstances.
- Explain the importance of personal accountability.
- Ensure people understand their role and performance responsibility.
- Use coaching and feedback to inspire others.
Milestones on Your Leadership Journey
Leaders are not made equal. Consider the difference between the captain of your local football team, your division manager and the local hospital chief executive. They are all leaders, but their roles are very different. This means each position will require different skills and qualities. Gordon Tredgold proposes there are five different stages of leadership that you may find yourself progressing along. The five levels are described below, including the attributes of a leader in each role.
Anyone can be a leader irrespective of their level within an organisation; all they must do is take action.
Become a role model for how others should behave, give positive feedback, support others and show them respect. Choose to lead, and the leadership position will follow.
Team leaders are present all the time and are an integral part of the team. They are involved in the day-to-day delivery of results.
Directly impact the achievements of your team as you support others, collaborate and contribute to the successful achievement of projects. It is highly satisfactory as you feel both appreciated and a hero.
Lead larger teams with your technical expertise but have less direct hands-on contribution (e.g. head of department).
Requires the development of leadership expertise to become truly effective, although technical expertise may cover up any leadership deficiencies. It is important to begin developing emotional intelligence and learn how to show respect, listen to others and make them feel valued.
Engaging and Enabling Leader
Lead other leaders with indirect influence from 2+ levels away from the front line.
This stage marks a shift from technical expertise toward leadership expertise. You must be comfortable with trusting your team and their capabilities as you lead in areas where you have no technical expertise. It requires you to create visions, engage teams, recognise successes and place (or enable) individuals into positions where they can be successful.
Shape organisational culture through your behaviour. You have almost no direct impact, yet everything you do has an indirect consequence.
Organisational culture guides people when there is no one there to lead them. Be consistent and authentic with your actions as you will be closely watched by individuals seeking to check whether your behaviours align with both their values and the organisational values. Be conscious of your actions (i.e. kindness, recognition, accountability) and inactions (i.e. failure to speak out on sexism, racism, discrimination). How you behave will have implications. Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts for short term results. Lasting successes and sustainability requires patience.
Sustaining Your Leadership Journey
Leadership is a bumpy road, but you are not alone. Here are just a few suggestions for helping your make the most of your role. Use some or all of them as you grow and develop into your position.