As the year draws to a close, I am reminded of the great leadership lessons I have learned from colleagues, mentors, sponsors, coaches, and a myriad of incredible people I've encountered on my professional journey. May these words of wisdom give you the courage and fortitude to chart your own unique path with confidence so you can thrive!
Self Confidence Rocks - as the research indicates, people are often hired for potential so confidence can trump competence since new skills can be learned. Ambition is not a bad thing. Throw your hat into the ring for an opportunity you are not yet 100% qualified for and be ready to learn on the job. Waiting to be perfectly ready can be paralyzing and authentic self-confidence is very appealing. Bring it on!
Develop Your Professional Brand - every professional has a super power that distinguishes her or him from the pack in the workplace. Learn to promote your unique brand so others recognize you as the go-to person for your unique ability. You are in control of your professional story so if your brand needs to be dusted off and refreshed, give it the attention you need to be recognized in your career. Become a promotable or a recruit-able player and lead with your brand.
Read More - feed your brain with new information on even the busiest of days. Intellectual stimulation is a common denominator for effective leaders and staying aware of trends and innovation as well as what's tried and true allows you to be open to diverse perspectives. Try audio books and podcasts if you are time starved for book-in-hand reading opportunities. The best leaders are the best learners.
Identify 25 Influencers - think BIG about who can help advance your career and harness your professional moxie as well as your network. Include people you aspire to know and rally the relationships you have to whittle down the six degrees of separation for an introduction. Solicit the advice of others who may be willing to make introductions on your behalf.
Busy Leaders Make Time for Others - even the busiest and most successful people make time to help others. Carve out 30 minutes a day to consciously help someone else in need. The gratification is priceless and you will grow your leadership abilities by helping others. Empower others to act. Model the way.
Hyper Specialize - the talent wars are back and specialists will be far more promotable than generalists in this competitive landscape. Identify what distinguishes you in your field and market yourself accordingly so others know your niche and look to you as a go-to guru.
Play to Your Strengths and Minimize Your Weaknesses - the best leaders focus on their strengths and navigate around their weaknesses and blind spots by filling those gaps with exceptional people on their team who can excel where they can't. Practice the art of recruiting or delegation by empowering others to showcase their strengths so you can focus on what you do best. After all, you are not broken.
We all have weaknesses but smart leaders surround themselves with extraordinarily talented people that do what they can't. As Kouzes and Posner wrote in their book, The Leadership Challenge, "The paradox of power is that we become most powerful when we give our power away."
Have a Career Plan - career management is wise leadership behavior and savvy professionals always have an exit and a growth strategy in mind so they are more in control of their career trajectory. Nurture your network continuously and be sure to manage up within and beyond your organization so your great work will be recognized and rewarded. Create a short-term and a long-term career plan so you can navigate your career path more effectively.
It's Wise to Ask for Help - successful people got to where they are because other people helped them along the way. It takes a village to groom a great leader and asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of a self-actualized individual who truly understand the benefits of accepting help. Even the most self-directed can benefit from the help of others. While you are at it, pay-it-forward and help someone else.
Be Disruptive - innovate, expand your comfort zone, try something new, take a risk. What would you do if you weren't afraid? Be open to new things. Challenge the process. Question why and how you do things and talk with your colleagues to consider ways to improve your work. Sometimes the goal is to build a better mousetrap and other times it's wiser to befriend the mouse.
"It's not going to be easy but it's going to be great!" Sallie Krawcheck CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, Chair Ellevate Network
Value Your Differences - managing is baking - leadership is grilling. Don't be afraid of getting burned. Conflict is not a bad thing - it's how you manage it. Inspire a shared vision and create a culture of advocacy where buy-in is encouraged and alternative views are welcomed. Diverse viewpoints are essential for growth and development. Differences can lead to new discoveries that will prevent stagnation that could make your product, service or company obsolete.
Take a Seat at the Table - it takes courage and conviction to be seen and heard in your workplace. Make sure your voice is heard no matter where you reside on the organizational chart in your company. From entry level to the C-Suite, the table is where you are now and you deserve to be heard. Mange up and communicate in creative ways so your ideas are known beyond your individual rung on the company ladder.
Fail Forward, Fast, and Often - in Silicon Valley - the land of tech start-ups, a new company has not earned their street credibility until they have failed and recovered several times. Showing resilience is essential for investors, colleagues, and customers. Embrace the art of failure and learn to dust yourself off and start again since how you recover from failure is what influential people are most interested in.
"You only learn by failing." Beth Brooke-Marciniak Global Vice Chair - Public Policy, EY
Give, Give, Get - consider how you can give of your time, talent, treasure or ties (connections) to others. The more you give away, the more comes back to you in the karmic circle of life. Consider how you can give of yourself as a leader today.
Be Curious - whether you are an emerging leader or a sage executive, curiosity is a competency that is essential. Get to know the people on your team and beyond. Ask how they make an impact in the organization. Learn something you don't yet know about what your company does - go beyond your team or department. Better still, check out what the competition is doing and learn about industry trends by asking questions. Professional inquisitiveness will keep you fresh, aware, and nimble in order to handle change, which happens frequently.
As you consider your professional game plan for the next year, I hope these leadership lessons will inspire you on your journey.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book, "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the second edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Ellevate Network, CNN Money, and the British online magazine - The Rouse. She hosts the online series,Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women and hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life- check it out on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook,LinkedIn, and Twitter.