There are many factors that contribute to the rise of professionals in their careers, yet these four principles, when practiced consistently, will prepare you for the leap into leadership:
1. Listen Well: People who problem-solve well, are people who listen well. People who earn respect, are people who listen well. People who communicate interest and commitment, are people who listen well. But, what is listening well? It is listening without judgment, and listening to understand, not to respond. If you ask a question, and then catch yourself crafting a response to the answer before they have finished talking, you are not listening well. While someone is talking, we should be listening so intently, that the only things popping into our heads should be follow up questions to what they are saying, so that we can further understand what they are trying to communicate. Listen deeply, and listen with intent, and people will come to appreciate that you care about their concerns, and not just your own.
2. Lead with Service: The idea of servant leadership is becoming increasingly more prominent, as people in a variety of industries are experiencing its positive effects. When leaders are seen as individuals who care about the people with whom they work, they are trusted. As leaders, if we cannot put aside our own wants to ensure the concerns of others are addressed, the needs of those people won’t be met and their work will suffer. As Lawrence D. Bell once said, "Show me a man who cannot be bothered to do little things and I'll show you a man who cannot be trusted to do big things." If you desire to be a leader, first concentrate on how you can build up the people around you, and do so with genuine care. The faithfulness of your actions will foster personal growth, and people will feel you are approachable and trustworthy.
3. Be Teachable: There will never be a time when we have become such experts, that we have learned all there is to learn. Ideas are always evolving, culture shifting, businesses transitioning and thanks to modern-day technology, the knowledge required to keep up with all of that is at our fingertips. Take advantage of the wisdom of others. If you’re not at the top of the food chain, welcome the knowledge of those who are. Seek out a mentor, a coach, new resources that will become part of your ongoing personal and professional development.
4. Don’t Grumble, Strategize: You’ve got a problem? Great…do you also have a possible solution? People who can identify weaknesses or missing links, play a vital role in the health and growth of a team. It is how they present those findings that sets them apart. Go before your listeners with your observation, and ask if they would like to hear some viable solutions. Create a reputation as one who can pinpoint obstacles, and create workable plans to help your team get to where they want to be.
Your interaction with others and the effort you put into your work will determine how others view you. Good leaders are consistently evaluating themselves and taking inventory of character development and work ethic. We are not born with exemplary character; it is something we have to intentionally practice. Your practice will be well worth the effort.