Paving the Way to Leadership: Develop your Skills

Do you feel you have what it takes to be a manager? Have you found it difficult to make the move into leadership?

You’re not alone, many ambitious professionals looking to progress to management roles find themselves held back by the fact that such jobs require candidates with a certain level of experience.

However, there are ways you can boost your chances of success when that coveted promotion comes up. If you work hard to develop your leadership skills, and can demonstrate your abilities to your employer, you’re more likely to be given a chance to showcase what you can do. Even if you don’t get the job this time, keep at it and you’ll be ready for it when you do!

Graduates, if you’re just starting out in the world of work but have your heart set on management, this is your golden opportunity to build a really good professional skill set. Even if you’re on a graduate scheme, you will still benefit and improve your chances of success if you dedicate some time to working on the qualities and skills you’ll need to be a strong leader.

The first thing you need to ask yourself is: what makes a good leader?

In essence, this question is a bit like asking ‘how long is a piece of string?’, there’s an endless list of answers and these can depend on the company, industry and individual opinion. However, generally speaking, managers should:

  • Be confident
  • Have great people skills
  • Be a strong communicator at all levels
  • Make things happen
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm, professionalism and knowledge
  • Be capable of effectively leading, coaching and supporting a team
  • Be decisive

Then take some time to reflect

Self-reflection can be undervalued in a professional context, but it really is a great first step to take on your path to progression and development. What are your strengths and weaknesses at work? Do you fit the criteria for management? What skills and qualities do you need to build on before you’re ready? If you feel like you’re ready now, what else can you develop to make you a strong candidate for a management role?

There’s always room for improvement, so identifying where and how to achieve it will give you a head start. It may even be worth creating your own personal action plan; include your strengths and weaknesses, your plans and also use this to record any evidence that will prove you have the right skills.

Expand your horizons

If you want to progress beyond your role, then it’s time to get out of that cosy comfort zone! You can start in the workplace; speak with your manager or colleagues to see if there are any added responsibilities you can take on alongside your regular duties. Make sure that you’re the first in line to take on any presentations, projects, work-streams or get involved in any committees or societies that exist in your workplace (e.g. the social team, charity committee etc.).

Jump at the chance to be involved in any activity or task that will help you build on one of your areas for improvement or required skills for leadership. It all adds up, and not only will you gain invaluable experience, but you will also have evidence that demonstrates your abilities.

You can develop outside of work, too

It’s easy to overlook the transferable skills that our activities outside of work can give us. Coaching a sports team, leading any kind of social group, taking ownership of running regular activities such as book clubs, cookery nights or even an appreciation society for your favourite punk band!

Committing to take on a leadership role in social events or activities can really help you to build on your leadership skills and get involved in situations that force you to regularly interact with different people. This will help your confidence, communication and people skills. It’s a win-win.

Think about how the things you do in your personal life showcase and develop your skill set, and if you don’t currently take part in anything that allows you to do this, take the plunge! You may find that doing so will let you reap the benefits within your professional life.

The journey to the top is never easy, it takes hard work and commitment but having a plan in place to get there is half the battle. Don’t give up!

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