According to current research, about 30% 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 from our experience 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 research in this field suggest ways to take charge of your own leadership development. In an interview with the late Dr. Dan Maltby, we came up with five tips1 for being intentional about your growth…
#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, more challenging assignments than others. Some will provide better coaching and mentoring. Keep your eyes open and land on the best spot possible.
Exercise your ability to choose!!
#4—SURROUND YOURSELF WITH SUCCESS
The late Warren Bennis talked about being a first class noticer. Keep your eyes open and look for those mentors and role models (Bennis says to stalk them). 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. Learning from someone else’s experience is worth much but costs little.
Stupidity is contagious, but so is success!!
#3—VOLUNTEER FOR THE TOUGH JOBS
Since others are avoiding them, 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. So go ahead and take that Kryptonite2 assignment.
People don’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. And since most assignments are high-profile and come from the top, your chances of being noticed are greater.
None of us is as smart as all of us!!
#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. Sort the good ones from the mediocre ones?
Energy flows where attention goes!!
1Kotter surveyed two hundred executives at highly successful companies and interviewed twelve 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. We’ve picked five that seem especially relevant.
2For those under 30, this is the fictitious substance that made Superman weak, thus he avoided it. Don’t you!