In my experience you need to consistently demonstrate your leadership qualities in everyday challenging situations before you are formally recognised as a leader through a change in responsibilities or a formal promotion.
In this well written post below first published in Forbes.com, Kate Snowsie identifies 3 ways you can demonstrate your leadership potential.
Leadership qualities are often elusive attributes that people struggle to pin down or describe. Lists of essential skills tend to include strong decision-making skills, accountability, integrity, creativity and — my personal favorite — managerial competence.
What makes a good leader is hard to define. According to the 2018 Global Leadership Forecast “identifying and developing future leadership talent” is rated as the most critical skill leaders will need in the near future. In the same report, only 14% of CEO’s reported they have the leadership talent necessary to execute future business strategies. These figures further highlight how important it is for organisations to be able to identify the emerging leadership talent within their teams.
As a manager and executive coach, I have noted that there is one skill that can massively impact the way existing and emerging leaders are perceived by their peers and superiors: demonstrating initiative through being consistently solution-focused.
Whether you are a team member seeking a senior position or a leader hoping to further climb the ladder, there are a few things you can do to develop a solution-focused mindset and stand out to those above you:
Step up and take ownership
In my experience, many employees go to their superiors with lists of problems, frustrations or struggles they can’t seem to make their way through on their own. They knock on the door of the office and say, “I don’t know what to do with this,” or, “I’m unhappy with my current situation.” They view it as their manager’s job to work out these issues for them.
But where I believe a true leader differs is that they are solution-focused. Rather than arriving at a manager’s desk with a pile of problems, come with a stack of ideas. Before sharing frustrations or issues with others, consider all the ways you could move forward. Use your meeting with a superior to discuss, clarify thinking and sign-off on intentions.
It’s OK to ask for help when you need guidance, but do not expect your boss to sort it out for you. Go to them with the intention of discussing the situation, proposing solutions and reaching a consensus.
Think about what will make the business a success
Once an employee becomes solution-focused, there is an inevitable shift in thinking that takes place. You transition from, “what is right for me?” to, “What is right for the business?” Think about business goals, rather than only focusing on yourself. This critical shift in your viewpoint is noticeable to those sitting further up the organisational hierarchy.
By consistently keeping a solution-focused lens rather than only looking at the problems, you can begin to think like a business leader.
Become an excellent self-leader
As a manager, I found there was nothing more frustrating than when an employee would cast blame on others if they were frustrated with their own career, rather than look at how they could make a change themselves. When this happens, it’s important to change your mindset and become a self-leader.
Look for solutions — don’t wait to be told what to do. Remember that you are in the driving seat of your career. I believe this empowered attitude is a cornerstone to what it takes to be an excellent leader.
Demonstrating initiative, a core attribute of successful leadership, might sound complicated. But by simply staying dedicated to being solution-focused, I believe you can dramatically impact the way you lead within an organisation and influence how your superiors perceive you. In my experience, those who demonstrate strong leadership capabilities are consistently solution-focused. So look for ways to get through, around or over the issue at hand, and keep a never-give-up, positive outlook — it’s something many successful organisations are looking for in a future leader.