If you’ve always dreamed about being the “top dog” in the office, leading a team and looking after big-picture strategies, it’s important to start grooming yourself for this kind of career as soon as possible. Even if you have only just recently graduated from a course, or are about to enroll in one, it’s never too early to start thinking and acting like a leader.
Read on for some key steps you should take to progress down the right path and get noticed for your leadership potential.
Be Clear on Your Goals and a Plan for Your Career.
To begin with, it’s really important to be very clear about what your actual goals are for your career. While you already know you want to become a leader, if you want to progress quickly through the ranks and end up where you have always imagined, you need to work out what your ultimate dream is.
For example, do you envisage leading a team of thousands of people as the head of a Fortune 500 company, or do you want to manage a small team in your own business, or something in between? Are you interested in doing lots of travel as part of your dream job, or do you want to be able to work from home and care for a family while you manage team?
There are lots of different ways to be a leader, and each will require slightly different strategies to get there. The sooner you get some clarity on where you see yourself in 10, 20, or even potentially 50 years, the sooner you can start working specifically towards these goals. You also won’t get waylaid along the way wasting time and energy on roles or activities that will take you away from your end point.
It pays to put together a career plan too. Work backwards from your ultimate goal and come up with jobs you need to land or places you need to be at during certain points along the way. From there, it will be easier to put in place short-term and long-term goals, and to know what you need to learn to get there.
Never Stop Learning.
Speaking of learning, in order to become a top leader, it is necessary to continually develop new skills, gain more knowledge, and improve personal qualities such as communication and public speaking, delegation, decision-making, negotiation, conflict-resolution, patience, creativity, perseverance, and resilience. The best leaders are people who never stop learning, and who don’t assume that just because things have been done a certain way for a time, that they need to continue to be done the same way indefinitely.
There are many different avenues you can take to learn new things. For example, if you don’t have a higher degree as yet, consider enrolling in a business- or management-related Master’s program where you can really hone your skills and knowledge. Even if you don’t already have a Bachelor’s degree there are options to choose from, such as a no-GMAT online MBA or similar program. These types of courses can be completed while you work part-time or full-time, because they’re flexible and can be studied from home or the office, plus they will keep you up to date on the latest management practices and market conditions, and help you learn about a diverse array of helpful topics.
If you’re not keen on such structured study, or simply want to focus on specific areas where you have gaps in knowledge, you won’t have to look far for assistance. For instance, you can attend workshops, conferences, and training programs; hire speakers who specialize in a particular field; or obtain a knowledge from reading books, magazines, reports, newsletters, and research studies.
Lastly, keep in mind that leaders aren’t people who sit back and wait for things to be handed to them, or for “luck to strike.” Instead, top managers search for opportunities, take charge, and do everything they can to make things happen. As such, to propel yourself forward as a leader, always look for ways to be proactive.
If you want to get promoted regularly or land top roles, you need to be noticed by the right people at the right time. To do this, start by handling your current job in the best way possible. Always do what you say you’re going to; find ways to go above and beyond and to get along well with everyone; continually demonstrate tact, diplomacy, positivity, and trustworthiness; search for innovation solutions to problems; and pre-empt the needs of your managers.
When it comes to getting noticed by people at outside firms, be proactive by networking regularly online and in person. Online, you should be taking advantage of social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to develop new connections and demonstrate your expertise in your field. In person, attend key local and industry events so you can meet new people and make it known what job you are looking for next.