I know, I know… another article about the most widely written topic of the 21st century; leadership.
In recent years I’ve spoken with hundreds of senior managers about the scarce talent required to take their respective organisations to the next level, and beyond. Whilst no two companies are the same, during each of these conversations we will almost always find ourselves discussing leadership. Specifically, the characteristics or experiences required to drive success in the complex world of ever-evolving organisations & industries.
One of our most interesting observations recently is the increased focus on leadership abilities at various levels within companies. Long gone are the days when only senior management would be quizzed about their approach to leading groups, or how they reacted the last time something went wrong, or any of the other questions typically fired at job-hopefuls during interviews. Companies want to find the next generation of individuals who can inspire daily, achieve sustainably and organise seamlessly. Young leaders are being identified early – and they are here to stay.
Take a look at some of the most successful Founders or CEOs who inspired others to achieve alongside them. Despite relatively few years of ‘leadership experience’ Steve Jobs took Apple public in his late-twenties, David Karp created Tumblr when he was 20 years old, and Mark Zuckerberg… well, you get my point. If you are an aspiring leader, regardless of seniority within your company, here are a few behaviours, actions and attitudes which I believe will help you to achieve your goals, and in turn help others around you to achieve theirs.
Understand and accept that you don’t know it all
You simply don’t. No one does. Therefore, it’s important to build a network of trusted advisors you can turn to when needed. Effective mentors are invaluable, but difficult to find, so approach networking proactively and remember that building relationships is not a quick-win. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
Consciously adopt a solutions-mindset
Personally, nothing is more motivating than being told something is not possible, and adopting a solutions-mindset helps us to achieve that which others believe impossible. However small the step may be, you will feel empowered by pushing forwards instead of increasingly concerned by the size of the challenge. Remember – you can do it.
Learn to become a calculated risk taker
Distinguishing between risks worth taking and others which only increase your liability is important, but very difficult during early stages of your career. Put tools in place to help you rationalise decisions; i.e. become a serial note-taker, utilise advisors, learn to trust your gut, hope optimistically but plan pessimistically, etc. etc. By risking nothing, you’re risking everything.
Commit yourself to lifelong learning
This one is straightforward – consciously develop yourself in some way each day. Everyone is busy, so make sure to carve out times when you can dedicate yourself to learning. Listen to audio books on the treadmill, use a language-learning app on the train home, read before bed instead of watching TV, the list goes on. Invest in yourself.
Be the most organised person in the room
As you level-up as a leader you will be pulled in many different directions, and poor organisation will hinder your productivity massively. Fast improvements can be made by simply planning your day well and using calendars properly. Set specific blocks of time for tasks so that you prioritise effectively, increase focus, and ensure everything is accounted for. Either you run the day, or the day runs you.
Participate in active reflection
Irrespective of age or experience, its vital to structure your personal development. Think big – then think bigger. Write down future achievements, actions and behaviours – reminding yourself of these goals daily. Remember to take regular stock of development to ensure you’re still on course to reach desired levels and to self-motivate. Only through honest reflection can we expand our potential and reach heights previously thought unreachable.
Don’t just be a leader, be a servant-leader
Whilst building experience, an extremely effective way to inspire and engage others is to show you truly care about what you’re doing, and who you’re doing it with. For engaged team members, your commitment to their development can be incredibly motivating. In turn, you will create another generation of leaders, shared values, and build your team’s culture. Focus on the growth of the group instead of reaching the top of the pyramid alone.
Develop an attitude of gratitude
Whether you are the CEO or a first time manager, expect to encounter stress. We must protect ourselves mentally, which is where gratitude comes in. Practising gratitude helps manage stress levels, improve energy, and builds self-esteem. Many successful leaders advocate the use of a gratitude journal, simply writing down three things they are grateful for each day. Be thankful for what you have whilst you pursue what you still want.
These views are my own. (In fact, writing this article has been a very useful part of my own active reflection!). Please feel free to share your own thoughts and hints to help others.
By Daniel Jeffery
About Daniel Jeffery: Senior Partner, Daniel, heads up our Contracts division in our New York office.