Aspiring to secure a leadership role with managerial responsibilities? Instead of passively waiting, you can demonstrate that you are leadership ready. Within the five short years of my career, I became a manager — and by using these five skills, you can be seen as a leader, too.
1. Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.
Independent contributors may have the mindset that they just work on what is assigned to them. This gives the impression that you are an independent worker, without an interest in teamwork or a dedication to leading others.
In my five-year career, I have collaborated with various individuals. Each collaboration demonstrated to others how I added value to the organization. Offer your strengths, skills and expertise to collaborate with others on projects.
This collaboration is not limited to a coworker on your team. You can work with other departments and even your leadership team. Collaboration will get everyone in the organization talking about how you added value, distinguishing you from your peers.
Collaboration is important for any manager. By demonstrating your collaboration, you have potential to scale that to your own team.
2. Strategically accept new roles.
Do not take every new opportunity that comes your way, even though it may be a temptation to take it. The most important factor to consider is how this position will strategically impact your career goals. In my HR career, I accepted nine employment opportunities.
Some may think or argue that eight roles is way too many within a five year period, and can appear as though I were job hopping. This could not be further from the truth. I accepted each of those new roles for a specific reason. It was methodological and well thought out.
Do not get me wrong, there were a few job offers that I also turned down because they did not fit that strategic career plan. When opportunity knocks at your door, evaluate the offer and its impact on your career trajectory before you open it.
3. Gracefully resign.
Resigning is a hard decision. Odds are that you enjoy the work that you do and your growth at the organization. I resigned from my very first full-time HR role and it felt as though I was betraying the company. However, I was doing what was best for me.
Even though you have invested your time, energy and work into an organization, you owe it to yourself to leave at an appointed time, if you choose to do so.
Since then, I have resigned from four out of those eight roles (the other four were contracts or temporary assignments with defined end dates). Each time I resigned, it did not make the next time any easier.
I learned though, that as an employee, you can plateau at a company with your career growth. This can eventually lead to disengagement, unhappiness, and poor performance.
Resigning in a graceful manner (with a two week notice) can ensure that no bridges are burned when you move on.
A resignation done properly establishes that you are a professional that can support an organization and leave it better than you found it. That type of leadership is central for any future manager to possess.
4. Volunteer for projects (especially ones your boss doesn't want to do).
Volunteering does not always come naturally to people, especially if it is for something that you do not have the knowledge, skills, or abilities to do.
Everyone has a boss or manager, and that relationship will vary. Yet there will always be a task or assignment that your boss groans to do. That is exactly the task that you should volunteer to complete for your supervisor.
I have done this at each of my roles, and each time the task or project has gotten more complicated. Most recently in my HR Specialist role, I completed benchmarking compensation research and HR metrics for exit interviews.
Every time I volunteered, I not only learned, improved or practiced a skill; I also showed initiative to my direct supervisor and made them happy with my deliverable.
My established credibility to take on new HR projects positioned me to grow with the impact I had on the business. When you volunteer, it shows your boss and senior leadership that you are willing to extend yourself. This puts you on the radar for promotion opportunities with managerial responsibilities. The initiative you display is sure to be rewarded, potentially with a team of your own.
5. Be a continuous learner.
How has this become one of the most sought after skills? Learners are practitioners. They are the ones that iterate a process until it is fully optimized, which means that as they learn, they become better and stronger human capital assets to the organization.
Continuous learning shows leadership that you can be flexible and adaptive in an ever changing working environment. Continuous learners were especially important in 2020 and will continue to be essential in 2021. The pandemic completely shifted the working environment demanding new skills and upskilling.
As a continuous learner, you set yourself apart from your peers by establishing yourself in the organization as a subject matter expert (SME). Once perceived as an SME, you’ll have the appeal to management.
After all, a manager has to be a continuous learner to support a diverse team with different communication and work styles.
Have you practiced any of these tips before? What’s your best advice on securing a leadership position — and how to get others to see you as a leader?
Ellysa is the HR Manager at a nonprofit organization that provides support to underrepresented business owners. She has spent her five years career in Human Resources. Ellysa will graduate with her M.S. from NYU’s SPS in Human Resources Management. She completed her Executive Education in Nonprofit Leadership Certification from Fordham University in 2017 and graduated with her B.S. from Fordham University. She resides in North Carolina with her parents and siblings.