This post was written by Jennie Yelvington, Sr. HR Professional for Organization and Professional Development.
Are you interested in moving into a formal leadership role, but not sure how to get there? The first step is to examine whether you have and are exhibiting the types of skills necessary to be successful in the role. That assessment can help to inform your development plan, prepare you for more responsibility, and highlight your capacity to others.
The following behaviors will help you demonstrate leadership ability no matter your current role:
- Identify your goals, discuss with your supervisor, and actively work toward them. Leaders need to be continually learning and developing themselves to maintain self-awareness and deal effectively with change and complexity.
- Take on stretch assignments. Look for opportunities to lead projects or initiatives, serve on committees, suggest improvements, and provide value added service.
- Learn about the university and how it functions. Leaders need to consider how issues impact not only their unit, but also their department, college, and the university. Familiarize yourself with issues impacting higher education, attend events that allow you to hear other leaders speak, and network broadly to better understand the landscape. While it is normal to think about how a situation impacts you personally, leaders place a priority on what best suits the mission, goals, and values of the organization.
- Strengthen your “people” skills. Effective leaders know how to engage and motivate their team, work collaboratively with their peers, and influence the leaders above them. Being empathic, listening for understanding, communicating effectively, and handling difficult conversations are baseline skills that every leader needs.
- Be a problem solver. Rather than complaining about issues you see (or ignoring them), develop and share ideas for addressing them. Ask good questions and get input from others who are involved and impacted as you attempt to identify possible solutions. Even if your ideas aren’t implemented, you build your capacity to solve problems and demonstrate that you are capable and proactive.
- Understand your biases and demonstrate inclusion. It is easy to always turn to our “go to” people who think like we do, but that isn’t generally the best approach. We all have biases, but once we understand them we can consciously work to include others who might offer valuable, different perspectives.
- Model professionalism. Dress in appropriate attire for the role you would like to secure, handle problems and disappointments with grace and maturity, move quickly from venting to sound action, keep up on skills necessary for your role, avoid engaging in gossip and redirect others who do, consistently follow through on commitments, be respectful of the others’ time and opinions, be actively supportive and helpful to your colleagues and leaders.
Talk with your supervisor to get their perspective on how you are doing in the above areas. HR Organization and Professional Development offers several instructor-led courses that can help you strengthen capacity in these areas. Find all current courses on the HR website and consider taking the following courses:
- Honing Your Emotional Intelligence
- Communicating and Influencing Up
- Essentials of Project Management
- Process Mapping and Analysis
- Crucial Conversations
- Crucial Accountability
- Sustainable High Performance
- Thriving Through Change
- From Distracted to Productive
- Everything DiSC: Behavior Styles at Work
In addition to instructor-led courses, current staff and faculty have access to elevateU, which offers free access to eBooks, videos, and online self-paced courses to help build your leadership skills. Learn more about elevateU on the HR website and try these leadership-focused learning opportunities through elevateU:
- Assessing Your Own Leadership Performance (class)
- Overcoming Your Own Unconscious Bias (class)
- New Leadership Transitions (class)
- Preparing for Leadership: What it Takes to Take the Lead (book)
- Ten Virtues of Outstanding Leaders: Leadership and Character (book)
- The Characteristics of an Accountable Leader (video)
For more career advice, read this interview with Sharon Butler, Associate Vice President of Human Resources. Butler shares lessons she’s learned about becoming a great leader and, more specifically, addresses how women can get ahead in the workplace.