Calvin and Hobbes were speaking more truth than they realized. Research has shown that many leaders arrive at their positions as a result of organizational need, rather than a planned, career trajectory (Garza & Eddy, 2008; Inman, 2007; Klein & Salk, 2013). My own experience agrees with the research, and I know a myriad of people who are given leadership roles or provided with leadership opportunities for which they had no desire or plan. Often, this results in a leader who lacks leadership preparation and is left to figure it out on the job. Research and evidence are great, but …
You’re the leader – Now What?
It’s not too late. You can plan your own leadership development. While you may find yourself in this position randomly, leadership is learned through the day-to-day practice of leading. With intentional focus on your own development, you can grow your leadership skills every day. With a few specific and intentional practices, you will be able to focus on leading today while growing your leadership skills for tomorrow.
ASSESS Your Skill Set – Take an honest look at what you know … and what you don’t know. Leaders must know themselves before they can lead others. Spend time assessing your strengths and areas needing growth. Seek help from a coach or someone who can help you identify what skills should still be developed to propel your leadership.
REFLECT on Your Leadership Style – Reflect on who you want to be as a leader and what authentic leadership looks like on you. Write your thoughts down in a journal or a blog or just scraps of paper, but put them down somewhere. Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper makes them more real which is the first step toward achieving your leadership goals.
MOVE into Your Leadership Role – Lean in and embrace the position you’ve been given. Crawling, walking, and running are all movement. You will not grow as a leader until you fully take on the role and move within it. You are gifted or you wouldn’t be there, so reach for it and move into this leadership opportunity with all you have.
Growth is one of the best things about being human. We are built to learn and develop. You may not have planned this part of your leadership journey, but you have arrived here and there is so much to discover.
Garza, R. & Eddy, P. (2008). In the middle: Career pathways of midlevel community college leaders. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 32, 793-811.
Inman, M. (2007). The journey to leadership: A study of how leader-academics in higher education learn to lead. University of Birmingham.
Klein, M. F., & Salk, R. J. (2013). Presidential succession planning: A qualitative study in private higher education. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 20(3), 335-345.