Being a solid, individual contributor is an admirable role. My question for you is – do you want more?
If you seek a leadership role, be deliberate. Don’t sit in your cubicle and wait to be tapped on the shoulder with an opportunity. In my experience, there are fairly predictable stages between “individual contributor” and “Leader of Contributors.” Your challenge is to recognize the stages in the Journey and to master the associated skills for each step along the way.
- Be receptive to feedback
- Demonstrate time management skills
- Build and maintain relationships
- Show strong problem solving skills
- Have initiative – get things done
- Must posses subject matter expertise
With time and success, you should get an opportunity to be a Team Leader and/or Coordinator. This gives you a chance to start building your influencing skills. Now, with no positional authority, you attempt to “direct” others. Here are the associated skills to master.
Team Leader and/or Coordinator:
- Learn basic influencing skills
- Demonstrate ability to run meetings.
- Listen for meaning and intent (not just content)
- Ability to be crisp and clear when articulating your ideas
- Be able to reach consensus with a group
- Increase your interpersonal adaptability – connect/relate with different types of people
- Gain fundamental understanding of human motivation and adult learning concepts
After demonstrating competence as a Team Leader, a common promotion would be into some sort of working supervisor role. This is a hybrid ‘player/coach’ type of a role. You are in charge, but you are still actively contributing to the work. Much like a Quarterback if you will. In that role – learn these skills.
- Know how to set and maintain priorities
- Ability to direct the work of others
- Work well with stress and pressure filled situations
- Determine efficient and effective approaches to getting work done; process oriented
- Ability to separate friendship from work; build boundaries with co-workers
- Build “up-stream” relationships – know how to relate to the powers that be
- Willing (and able) to confront and coach – good at giving constructive feedback.
- Can take a stand – can be assertive (without getting aggressive)
A major milestone in leadership is when you move beyond leading by example and figure out how to get results thru others. Metaphorically – you move from Quarterback to Coach. You are no longer “on the field” managing the action, you are on the sidelines leading it. This is what you have been work for – nice job!
Keep a continuous mindset and work to develop these additional skills.
Leader of Contributors:
- Can lead others and get results without direct involvement
- Have developed an initial leadership philosophy and style
- Able to delegate – don’t need direct involvement in the action
- Can lead by setting goals, objectives and targets
- Learn to recognize and nurture talented people
- Possess (and use) effective conflict management skills
- Demonstrate strong situational awareness – see more than the obvious
That’s the road map – those are the skills. If becoming a “boss” is part of your master plan, I encourage you to conduct a self assessment and identify the areas in need of development. Solicit the input of a mentor or other source of feedback. Get some objective data and perspective.
Look for opportunities to learn and then apply. Have the courage to make some mistakes. Be willing to let go of the skills and perspectives that got you to this point in order to learn the skills you need to get to the next level.
If you want it – go get it!