Becoming and remaining a leader is not a one-time process. It takes constant work, vigilance and a willingness to better oneself. Whether you are beginning your career in operations or a chief engineer looking to move up, everyone has the capacity for great leadership.
Much like a doctor cannot prescribe medicine without a diagnosis, problems or potential problems concerning leadership must start by finding out about yourself. Cynthia Mills, CEO of the Leaders’ Haven, said that there isn’t a lot of training for self-awareness but that it is a necessary skill for any good leader. Learning about what you are good at so that you can capitalize on those skills is key to growing into an effective leader.
Learning does not stop after one course, 20 years in the business or a degree. The learning mindset must be the default mindset. Being able to learn new systems, practice different behaviors and find learning from unexpected places, even someone that is younger or less experienced will make you a more adaptable and valuable leader. There are new technological advancements occurring in the way of building systems. It is important to be open to change.
Mills said that the best leaders read a lot. Life can be hectic, and the phone may never stop ringing, so reading may seem like that one activity you can never find time for. Mills said good leaders should make the time because it can increase your value. By learning about the world both in and outside of your profession, you will gain a wider knowledge base and be on top of any upcoming movements within your industry.
It is impossible to know what to do in every situation. Often it is difficult to see the long-term arc of your professional or personal path. This is where Mills said to get other people involved. She said to develop a council that you can turn to in times of professional need: someone you work with, a family member and people who know you very well. This group can help you avoid sticking to bad habits and they will tell you the truth.
Both current leaders and those who aspire to leadership must keep a culture of loyalty and honesty in the workplace. Both parties should find a mentor or mentee that they feel they can be honest with about the growth and trajectory of their professional life. Mills suggests going beyond performance reviews and finding out how your superior can help you achieve your career goals both in and outside the company. As a leader, you should not be afraid to let a great employee go if their trajectory leads them that way.
Sources: Cynthia Mills, President, CEO and Founder of the Leader’s Haven