A leadership role is something most professionals aim for. But where to begin if you are a graduate preparing to get your first career job or a professional who perceives themselves as far removed from the echelons of leadership in their organisation? In my years of engaging with younger professionals, I have heard so many times- ‘but I am not a leader. I am not experienced enough…’ In my quest to break the myth that leadership is something sacred and hallowed that is the privilege of those with 20+ years of experience (and I exaggerate a bit here), I state that the new generation of professionals are already leaders in the making.
A very simple definition of leadership is the ability to lead. The key word here is ‘ability’. And in my opinion we all have abilities to varying degrees, our unique composition making us unique people, and also leaders with varying capabilities. The skills of a leader include communication, integrity, ability to build relationships, innovation, awareness and driving change. I am confident that the new generation of professionals can find examples when they are been some or all of those things. The adventure lies in translating ability to career success.
So what does it mean to be a future leader? It is quite simple- it means taking charge of your career right from the onset to nurture the qualities a leader has. This would allow you to prepare for progression to more challenging roles with more responsibility and opportunities to demonstrate your calibre as you move up.
My top three tips to position yourself as Future Leader are:
- Be self-aware. Start with acknowledging your talents and abilities, and what you enjoy doing. No skill is wasted. Throughout your career you will hear the term ‘transferable skills’. Transferable skills are innate skills developed throughout life and can be applied to professional situations. Think teamwork (from playing sports), writing skills (from blogging), influencing skills (from student union experience)- make your own personal list.
- Find your community. Identify other Future Leaders and find ways of sharing your experience and journey with each other. Peer support makes the journey easier and more interesting, enhancing your opportunities to learn. Identify a role model who inspires you and identify what their leadership traits you admire. Ask for a mentor- they can be your sounding board and source of guidance when things seem unclear.
- Be curious. A successful professional is always learning and a great leader is looks ways to implement new learning. Similar to transferable skills, you may be able to apply your learning in different ways. Learning to play a board game, for example, can have valuable insights about developing a strategic outlook.
Most importantly, if you are a CMI member, embrace the fact that you are already a Future Leader. The journey has already begun and you are in for a great ride!
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