“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter F. Drucker, Austrian-American management theory pioneer.
Few of us join an organization with the intention of remaining a low-level worker forever. With the proper credentials, a few years of team play under your belt, and the right attitude, you’re almost certain to receive a promotion to a position of greater authority in time. Are you ready to take over the reins when the time comes?
Lead by Example
Many workers dream of becoming a manager someday, but how many actually plan how they’ll do the job when they get it? (Click to Tweet!) If you think or know you’re on the management track, or just really want to be, you’d best start planning ahead before the grooming even starts.
Mental preparation and observation are important strategies here. Watch your own manager, and the leaders of other groups whom you admire, and model your management style after the best of their actions. Do they lead through example, or duck out early on a daily basis to play golf? Realize that what they’re doing they may do for the good of the company, such as visiting clients, or “schmoozing” with them on the golf course. Many a profitable deal has resulted from such relationships. But it still looks odd to those not in the know; so it if becomes part of your repertoire as a manager in the future, it’s not a bad idea to get your people together and let them know exactly what you’re doing. We have a built-in tendency to keep an eye on the leader and take our cues for action from what they’re doing. So decide you will lead by example from the very beginning.
Don’t Be a Micromanager
Reject any idea of micromanagement, of course—and learn what it takes to avoid becoming a micromanager. Sure, keep an eye on your people, get to know them and show concern for them and their work, but don’t overdo it. Nobody—and I mean nobody—likes a micromanager. It overstresses everyone, not least the micromanager.
Improve Best Practices
As you’re watching your manager, you might also think about ways to improve the position once you rise to it. Even in the best-run office, there may be some “best practices” you need to update. It might make monetary sense to get everyone their own printer to keep beside their computers, for example; after all, electronics are increasingly inexpensive, and it probably costs more to run back and forth from the printer, wasting five or ten minutes a day, in the long run than buying everyone a $100 inkjet. Then too, consider the leader’s support staff. Are her assistants the people who actually run the day-to-day, while she handles the board, makes deals, and invents new products and services? If so, make sure you study how she handles them, and consider ways to keep them on if she decides to leave the company, move up, or retire.
Take On New Projects
While mental exercises and observation are all well and good, practical experience is better. Even if you’re not directly in line for leadership, you may end up there at some point. Instead of keeping your head down and languishing at your job, look for opportunities to shine and bring yourself to the attention of your manager. Rather than pace out projects too deliberately, if you can pick up your speed while still maximizing quality, get your projects done early and ask for more work. If the leader needs someone to handle a new initiative and can’t (or doesn’t want to) handle it themselves, volunteer for the job. Never fear getting your hands dirty; there’s no shame in hard work of any kind.
Offer to take the lead on anything, just to have the experience. In most circumstances, you won’t have to do much more than take over a new account, attempt to land an account, or run a little group of three or four people on a particular project. Show your willingness and ability to take on that extra responsibility, to reach out to organize, demonstrate, and plan. It’s your responsibility to make yourself ready to lead, no one else’s. Any opportunity, no matter how small, contributes to an edifice of experience you can later point to when asked why you qualify for leadership. So start building it right now!
© 2016 Laura Stack. Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on employee and team productivity. She is the president of The Productivity Pro, Inc., a company dedicated to helping leaders increase workplace performance in high-stress environments. Stack has authored seven books, including Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (January 18, 2016). She is a past president of the National Speakers Association, and in 2015 was inducted into its exclusive Speaker Hall of Fame (with fewer than 175 members worldwide). Stack’s clients include Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America, and she has been featured on the CBS Early Show and CNN, and in the New York Times. To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit her website.