Starting the Journey to Become a Leader
First Published Sep. 28th, 2016 at AICC BoxScore
“It’s up to you. You’re the only person who can get yourself to where you want to be. You have to make the choices and chart the course, then be disciplined and persistent with the choices you make.”Mike Nunn
I recently had a tremendously rewarding experience occur at work, where a young employee approached me to ask about their candidacy for an open team-leader role that reports directly to me.
Although he was not ready for this specific role, I still interviewed him to give constructive feedback and encouraged him to start the journey to leadership. Two days later, I connected with him again on our plant floor to ask whether or how he had processed what we discussed. He thanked me and said he would own it.
In addition to our meeting, he asked that I email him my thoughts from the meeting so he could refer back to them as he worked to grow into a leader. Here is what I told him.
The biggest piece of advice I can give is to treat everyone the same—be one person. Start this now. If anyone ever gets—or already has—a feeling that you treat or communicate with different people differently, then your climb to leadership will be dead before you even get started. You need to interact with your superior and all other team members by showing the same respect, honesty, and openness—every time. This is integrity.
My Top Leadership Keys
Fail. Make informed decisions, but don’t be afraid to fail; it’s how you learn.
Reflect. Whether it went well or not, reflect on your results. Why did you get the result you did? What could you do differently next time?
Ask the right questions. Start with why, then how, and lastly, what. Why are you doing ______? How are you going to do _______? What needs to be done to achieve ________?
Set goals and expectations. Setting goals for yourself and your team is vital. Without goals, growth is left to chance and luck.
Think strategically. True leaders need to find better, newer, and less-wasteful systems and processes.
Be honest. Tell the truth, even if your voice shakes.
Learn. Never stop learning and acquiring knowledge; it’s the foundation for career growth.
Think positively. Don’t let the negativity of others affect your focus on positivity.
Serve. Leaders go first. They help their team achieve, and they lead by example.
Here is the list of books I recommended to this leadership understudy:
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I’ve read this book four times and gotten something new from it each time.
- The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. As I was reading this book, I felt like Hardy was talking to me, about me.
- The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma. You have more influence than you know. Harness mastery and achieve your greatness.
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Ten thousand hours … that’s how long it’s going to take. Take for what? Read the book.
- The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling. Goal-setting, improvement, and accountability simplified.
- Start With Why by Simon Sinek. If you want to inspire, start with why.
- Developing the Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell. After reading this book, I bought a copy for all my team leaders.
Shadow the people who are already in the place where you want to be. When shadowing a leader, ask lots of good questions, and be open to constructive feedback. I don’t know any leaders who wouldn’t be more than happy to share their experiences and spend time with someone eager to grow.
Lastly, I told him, “It’s up to you.” You’re the only person who can get yourself to where you want to be. You have to make the choices and chart the course, then be disciplined and persistent with the choices you make.
At the end of our conversation, I gave him some tangible first steps to make some immediate progress toward leadership. First, read all the books on the list. Second, shadow the leaders whose level you wish to achieve. Third, embody the character traits of great leaders. Lastly, be yourself and have fun.
VP | Operations