We’ve read plenty of articles on how to help develop leaders – but what about Average Joe who isn’t already being primed for the executive suite or who owns his own business? You could be trying to man your own business front, working to hire, train, and retain a sales team, or you could be an entry level or junior associate with his eyes on moving up the corporate ladder. If you’re the former, you don’t have the benefit of HR or talent management consultants coming in to help develop leadership skills. If you’re the latter, then you’re likely lost in a pool of other junior associates – and equally unable to secure one-on-one training necessary for honing your talent. You do have one very important asset though, and that’s the reflection that stares back at you every morning.
Your party of one doesn’t have to rely outside help to strategize a game plan for your own development skills. You can achieve this by taking on the mindset of a leader – and the first thing a leader does is question everything. Here are the questions you should be asking yourself to form an assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, and performance.
1. Where am I failing?
Just as important as your success, is your failure. Just as in life, we make the same mistakes over and over again in business until we learn from them. You’re likely making the same mistakes again and again in the workplace. If you’re managing your own business, then look to where you’ve failed now but also scale back and look at your entire job history to see every incident of failure. The same goes for the junior associate. There’s a very good chance you’re unconsciously on the same damaging behavior track now. And really, that’s where most mistakes hide…in our behavior.
2. Where are my risks?
If you’re not risking something, you’re not moving forward. You’ve got to be a strategic risk taker by either learning something new or trying something new. Otherwise your business or you as a career candidate are looking like yesterday’s news…predictable and boring.
3. Where is my competition?
Nothing motivates you to excellence like seeing the competition. No matter how great we think we are, we get to a point where we begin resting on our laurels. It isn’t until competition comes along that we’re motivated into action again. Everyone has competition. Yours could be a fast-rising internet industry that caters to your clients in a way you haven’t thought of yet, or it could be the new employee who’s already everyone’s favorite.
The next step is understanding how you’re going to deal with this competition. For the brick and mortar, it’s about putting roots down into a community. Here lies your strength because no internet business, despite the convenience it offers, can connect with people the way you can. For the corporate associate, your strategy is a little more complicated and requires an understanding of personality types and human psychology; start by understanding why they’re already everyone’s favorite…and why you aren’t.
4. Am I building a team?
This goes without saying for the small business man. Can you, as a business owner, tell the difference between hiring people/delegating tasks and building a team? Can you, as a junior associate that doesn’t yet have any people working below him, show leadership skills by pulling peers together for brainstorming or guiding them through a project? Leadership isn’t about being anointed for the role; it’s about working your way through a tangled knot of people, personalities, and goals, to come out winning on the other side.
When you look in the mirror, you should feel a sense of empowerment. You should be able to recognize your own ability to make things happen – and to be able to inspire others to see themselves in the same way. It doesn’t mean waiting for an opportunity or waiting till others see you as a developmental leader; it’s something you have to first recognize in yourself.