Cassandra Frangos is author of Crack the C-Suite Code: How Successful Leaders Make It to the Top, and a consultant at Spencer Stuart. Previously, she was leader of Cisco’s global executive talent practice.
In my role working with organizations on succession planning and executive development, it has become evident that young leaders are looking for success at an earlier age.
How can you advance further on a faster track? By actively managing your career and developing certain behaviours that will prepare you for success.
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These are some of the leadership skills and capabilities you can develop to differentiate yourself as you rise as a leader and take your career to the next level.
Solicit feedback on your performance by casting a critical eye on your own work and learning as much as you can from others. As part of that, find peers who will offer an honest assessment of your work and be willing to do the same for them. And when a manager delivers constructive criticism and development advice, accept it gracefully and set your sights on improving and moving forward. John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco and one of the most respected leaders in the technology industry, always asks for feedback after he delivers a presentation. Chambers, like all successful leaders, knows that feedback is an opportunity to develop and become better.
Develop effective communications skills
Leaders need to communicate and collaborate on multiple platforms with different audiences. While today’s communications often involve digital devices, don’t overlook the need to engage in face-to-face interactions with individuals and groups. Keep in mind, as well, that the most effective leaders are also good listeners. One executive I know was perpetually frustrated in team meetings by a colleague because “he talked over others and never listened to what anyone in the group had to say.” Elevate your listening skills by being mindful and focusing on what colleagues contribute as opposed to simply preparing your response.
Consider your image
Transparency receives considerable attention as a positive leadership attribute, but drawing boundaries can be equally important. It’s never too soon to think about your leadership brand and actively manage how others perceive you. For instance, recruiters and managers increasingly tap into social media to see how employees are portrayed online. That said, actively managing your image goes beyond online platforms like Twitter and Instagram. It extends to how you act and present yourself in person to anyone you connect with in the workplace. This includes internal colleagues such as peers and managers, as well as external stakeholders from customers and partners to outside vendors
Focus on change and reinvention
Change is everywhere as companies navigate fast-moving global markets, fend off insurgent competitors and rely ever more on disruptive and social technologies. These new realities require different ways of thinking and present an opportunity for leaders who can find order in the chaos and identify emerging business models. In other words, you need to be wired for change. On one hand, you need to show that you value the current corporate culture; on the other hand, you must have a vision to drive change, growth, and transformation. Similarly, you need to show that you have a lifelong love of learning and the ability to unlearn the things that no longer apply.
Be aware of relationship dynamics
It’s important to build 360-degree relationships – meaning up, down, and across the organization. But over time, your relationships with colleagues, peers and managers are sure to evolve. If you find that you’re being promoted sooner than some of your peers, for instance, be prepared for the dynamics in those relationships to change. One executive suggests being “mindful of your impact on others” as you move into leadership. You may find that you’re not able to share information as readily as before, for example. And don’t allow yourself to get trapped by the limiting stereotypes that can come with being younger than your direct reports. Dispel misconceptions by creating a brand for yourself as an individual and a rising leader in your organization.
Talented leaders are often ambitious and restless for advancement, but there are downsides to pushing for a promotion before you are really ready. Instead, focus on learning the dynamics and mastering the responsibilities of your current position. Create momentum for yourself by generating small wins and delivering results. While it’s acceptable to change companies when the current fit just isn’t right for you, it’s not wise to switch too often. It will serve you well in the future to demonstrate a solid track record at one organization before you move on to the next.
Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the ongoing Leadership Lab series.