“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”
– Michael Jordan
Whether you’re burning to step up to a management role in your existing workplace, or reinvent yourself as a leader in a whole new industry, this blog is all about getting you there. We’ll walk you through 5 key steps that will help you gain some leadership chops as well as recognised as someone with initiative and drive.
Take a course in leadership and management
The first and most obvious step in preparing yourself for a leadership role is to undertake further study. More and more research indicates that good leadership is a learned skill rather than an innate ability, and tertiary qualifications will help you develop the skills you need to motivate staff and manage a team.
If you already have a Bachelor’s Degree in a speciality field like accounting, engineering, or education you might consider a Diploma of Leadership and Management. Under the Australian Qualifications Framework, Certificate IV level courses deliver skills suited to supervisors and line managers, whereas Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas are more suitable for senior management roles.
Great leaders also understand the operations of their department and have hands-on knowledge of the jobs being carried out by their subordinates. So if you have practical skills in only one department and have your heart set on a General Manager’s role, you might also need some basic vocational training across a different skillset.
Join work committees and forums
If you have a leadership qualification but still having your management abilities overlooked, start looking for opportunities to join committees and forums in your workplace. Representing your department on the safety committee or being part of the business development crew is your chance to learn from the key drivers in your workplace in addition to seeing how your department really fits into the overall structure of the organisation.
Ask intelligent questions, contribute to the discussion, and play an active role in the decision making function of the committee. At the same time don’t blow the opportunity by missing meetings, arriving late, or wasting time niggling over the trivial stuff.
Volunteer in community leadership roles
A big part of the life of managers and other leaders is attending meetings. Being a part of community service organisations is an excellent opportunity to gain experience in this area. There are always openings to join a local chamber of commerce, service organisation or charity. You’ll quickly learn the dynamics of an effective meeting, the importance of having an organised agenda, and the best ways of recording the meeting discussions and outcomes.
Apart from attending meetings, as part of a community service organisation you might find yourself:
- leading a group of Girl Scouts on an outdoor activity
- organising a membership drive for your local Rotary Club
- motivating a ‘Relay for Life’ team raising money for Cancer Council
- preparing a budget for the local Junior Soccer club
- drawing up the schedule for a sports carnival
All of this is leadership experience worthy of a resume or Linkedin profile. And remember that the size of the organisation is not important: it’s about making a meaningful contribution and getting the chance to work alongside experienced leaders who might be more willing to mentor you than the super-busy CEO of the company you work for.
Get involved in your industry
Effective leaders are knowledgeable about the industry they work in, and understand the overall industry placement of their own organisation. Start conducting your own research and attend some industry events and conferences on your own dollar. Back at your own workplace, ask if you can represent the organisation at an industry event or conference at your own expense. You might be surprised when they offer to pay your ticket and let you tag along with the General Manager.
You can also join industry associations (many accept associate and preliminary members), attend workshops, and apply for scholarships and other industry-only professional development opportunities. When you’re a member of your industry association, you’ll be the first to know about key events, and opportunities for emerging leaders.
Step up your personal productivity
Finally, if you want a leadership role you need to ramp up your output and personal productivity. Effective leaders have excellent time management skills so they can get their own work done, as well as oversee departmental staff, solve problems, and report back to their own senior manager or board of directors.
Being productive is not about working 80 hours a week. Sure, maybe there’s times when you have to, but the people that really get attention are the ones who work the same hours as everybody else on the floor but deliver 3 times the output. Getting all your own work done PLUS taking on additional responsibilities without being pushy or aggravating is still one of the best ways to be tagged for leadership potential.
As Michael Jordon reminds us, becoming a leader requires initiative and a willingness to make it happen for yourself. Each of the 5 steps detailed in this blog post will set you on the path to becoming a great leader.
Oli Kang is a writer for Courses.com.au. You can view his other articles at www.courses.com.au/news.