Five essentials for young leaders
At the start of the career, one normally begins the journey as an individual contributor. You are responsible for your contribution and you do not have a team to lead.
At the start of the career, one normally begins the journey as an individual contributor. You are responsible for your contribution and you do not have a team to lead. Does it mean to say that there is no leadership involved? No. There is certainly leadership; however, such leadership is not about leading others – it is more about leading oneself!
Before one matures to handle a team and provide leadership, it is important to master the art of leading oneself. If you do not know how to lead yourself, you will not gain respect and credibility in others eyes, which is fundamental for a leader to grow.
While there are many aspects involved in leading oneself, let me highlight five essentials that I found to be critical for young professionals to emerge as good leaders.
1. Realise that ego derails you: By ego, I meant an inflated view of oneself. One tends to think too much of oneself and tries to protect that inflated balloon through his or her actions. Take for example, Sirish who has to send an internal report by the 10th of every month to another colleague. On one occasion he was bitten by the ego bug and felt that the other colleague should request him to send the report and only then he would send. When the colleague did not receive the report, he naturally questioned Sirish. “You didn’t ask me”, was the reply from Sirish, which was not at all acceptable to the colleague. The matter got escalated to the boss who called Sirish and reminded him of his responsibility.
When he cools down and looks at the whole episode, Sirish possibly would realise how trivial the issue was. But what has really triggered this behavior? If Sirish was honest to himself, he would admit that it was his ego, which derailed him. Several of the interpersonal conflicts with colleagues can be attributed to ego tussle. Carefully managing oneself to overcome and avoid these ego trips is an essential aspect of self-leadership.
2. Choose the battles that you want to fight: When you overcome the ego trap, you tend to ignore several of the trivial fights and move on to focus on something more meaningful. With such maturity, you need to develop discretion as to which issues are worth fighting for and which issues to ignore. In other words, you will refrain from being dragged into issues that you do not want to fight for. For instance, there might be a change of a policy related to office dress code. And there is another issue of deteriorating customer service in your organisation. Which one will you fight for and which one will you take into your stride and move on? It is important to use such discretion to be taken seriously. If you keep cribbing and objecting for everything around, you will be treated as a noise and disturbance. Raise your voice on issues that deserve a debate!
3. Choose your battleground: This is an extension of the previous one. Once you used your judgment to raise an issue, it is useless to keep airing your views in the corridor or on the lunch table. Use the right forum to express your views. Otherwise, you will be seen as a loose talker and trouble-creator.
4. Arrest opinions and fixations: This is a terrible habit for a young leader to inculcate. If you tend to be too judgmental and form opinions on everyone around you too quickly, then you need to arrest this tendency. A true leader has to look at everyone around without any prejudice and bias. Quick opinions and fixations act exactly the opposite way. Without your knowledge, you end up passing loose comments about your colleagues. Such tendencies encourage statements like “Oh..that lady! She cannot understand what I speak”, “That guy has attitudinal issue, cannot perform”. A good leader needs to see how he or she can help others realise their potential.
5. Focus on value addition and results: Finally, the most essential perspective for a young leader is to focus on results and not on activities. Some people claim how hard they are working; however, organisations recognise your leadership potential only when you strive to add value and deliver good results.
Sit back and reflect on where you stand on these five essentials!