As we navigate returning to our workplaces after the pandemic, a potential demographic shift seems to be on the horizon. Some more senior leaders may not return to the office because they are part of a high-risk group. Some of my clients, for example, have decided to retire early and pursue other options. In their place, younger, less experienced employees will likely get promoted to leadership roles.
Here’s my advice for these up-and-coming new leaders.
- Know and live your values
The best leaders are committed to their values, and they use them as their primary decision-making criteria. Start by identifying your personal purpose and your top three to five values. Then, be vocal about them so people can anticipate what you might want. Focusing on your values and your purpose can help you balance stakeholders’ needs and understand how to survive and thrive in both the short-term and the long-term.
- Align your values with the organisation’s mission
Once you’ve identified your personal purpose and your values, consider your organisation’s mission and values and your role. Where are you aligned with your organization? Do you both list similar values such as treating everyone with dignity? How does your specific role allow you to live your values? Do you perform a task that feels in alignment with what you value most? Most of us don’t have the perfect job and perfect alignment, yet we can find parts of our roles that allow us to do work we truly value and feel great about.
- Think systemically
Understand the implications of your decisions across the company, industry, community and broader ecosystem. Systemic thinking can be counterintuitive for leaders who were previously rewarded for focusing on a small area of expertise. Aim to shift to a macro focus to inform your critical decisions. What factors (emerging technology, financial needs, team alignment concerns, etc.) might impact your ability to meet your goal?
These factors range from understanding emerging technology, raising money to purchase new equipment and leading a division of treatment professionals who are all aligned around a common goal.
- Demonstrate your growth mindset
Leaders at all levels need to expand their thinking in ways they had not previously prioritized. For new leaders, it is essential to continue building your understanding of solid leadership foundations as well as understand how to work with people across generations. Invest time in mastering the skills to help you become a stronger leader. Be open to learning new technologies.
- Act authentically and reflect
Good leaders are highly committed to both their personal growth and the growth of others. Be willing to appropriately expose your vulnerabilities and ask for support in addressing them. Authenticity takes courage and builds empathy for others who are also learning and growing.
To ensure you’re acting authentically, set objectives before attending meetings, and take time after to reflect on how well you accomplished your goals and help you determine how you will refine your interactions in the future.
- Inspire followership
To inspire others to follow you, seek to understand what they’re going through, and find ways to help them meet their goals. Empathy — being able to understand others’ thoughts and feelings and put yourself in their place — is a critical trait for a leader.
Take the time to listen to the people on your team. Everyone has different expectations and may require something different to optimize their impact. Understanding their goals and concerns takes time and energy, but it can pay dividends in terms of team cohesion.
As a leader, you may be called upon to solve problems that had never existed before. To help you find the most robust solutions, routinely pull together stakeholders with different perspectives and strive to understand and integrate these different perspectives.
As you continue to hone your leadership skills, be open to the lessons you can learn from senior leaders as well. It is critical to bridge the gap between more experienced leaders and new ones. There are many ways to build such a bridge: One of the most effective options is mutual mentoring. You can learn a great deal from senior leaders about leadership fundamentals that hold over time, such as creating a vision and setting direction — and they can learn a lot from you about working with those with different experiences and talents.
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