Pursuing Your Path to Leadership

Investing in your career development makes sense. You have the ambition and the desire to grow your career…to greater heights…and faster. Maybe you are looking for something more in your career, and you haven’t quite figured out what it is and how to get there. Possibly you are interested in changing tracks, looking for that first executive promotion, or want to scale to a more senior leadership position in your company.  Perhaps you feel stuck because things just aren’t progressing at the speed you want or expect.

You can change that. You can accelerate your career trajectory, and reach your professional aspirations.  It won’t necessarily be easy. You might have to move around a bit. You might not get every promotion. Your definition of success may take a while to achieve, and you might even adjust your goals in the meantime.

The good news is that there is no magic to making it happen. Take me for example. I wasn’t the smartest.  I wasn’t the best at marketing, finance, operations, or engineering. I didn’t work remarkably more hours than everybody else. What I realized, and what you need to know, is there is a formula of sorts.  A recipe for being recognized as a high potential employee.  A method for getting on the fast track so that you get selected for leadership programs or roles with more responsibility and compensation. That formula is fairly consistent in almost all companies, no matter the size or industry, and it actually has very little to do with your background, personality type, or intelligence level.  

For starters, it is critical to have some force that is really driving you every day.  A motivation.  You need to know what that motivation is.  Why is this really important to you?

Is it internal competitiveness?  You just have an innate need to win the race to the top.  

Is it ego?  You want to be viewed as more successful than others around you.

Is it family?  You want to make sure your kids have everything they need and can afford to go to college

Is it financial security?  Getting rid of debt and not having to worry about bills.   

Is it lifestyle and wealth creation?  Big house and fancy cars.

Whatever your motivation, you are going to need some intrinsic drive that helps you to stick with it over a period of years.  Take some time to figure this out. If, after some serious introspection, you don’t come up with any answers…that may be your answer.  Some employees, even in management, are perfectly ok with a job they tolerate with a steady paycheck, and that’s ok.  That might be you.  But, that outlook is just not congruent with an objective to take on significant corporate leadership responsibility.  It’s important before you move forward with your career, or move forward with this course for that matter, to make sure that your aspirations are aligned with the action you are willing to take.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself back in the same place you may be now….frustrated.

Let’s assume you have a driver, and you are serious about the desire to grow your career.  I believe that is the majority of people in the corporate world.  Most professionals in that setting aspire to something bigger; very few people aspire to middle management.  But they just can’t figure out how to navigate the process.  There are three major “categories” for you to consider and explore as you work to enhance your professional trajectory.  They are:

  • Personal Competencies – These are not job-specific or technical skills.  Rather they are the “soft skills” that differentiate you as the company is identifying future leaders.  Examples include strategic acumen or communication skills.  These competencies rarely get highlighted in a formal way.  But they make all the difference.
  • Career Management.  Generally speaking, the path to executive leadership is not a random walk.  There are choices to be made on roles and relationships, and brief inflection points along the way that can help or hinder your cause, depending on how you handle it.  You must have a plan that fits your ambition and you must diligently execute that plan.  Just working hard and hoping is not a good plan.
  • Myths and Derailers – Most people don’t understand the requirements and expectations of executive leadership until they get there.  But that doesn’t stop most people from thinking they know.  Spend time discovering what life will really be like.  And as importantly, how to avoid poor decisions and pitfalls that will end your journey before it ever really starts.

Over the years, I have had countless conversations with colleagues (of all levels) about their careers and their goals. Many times they initiated those discussions because of frustration.  They say, “I just don’t get it.  I am one of the best marketing/finance/supply chain/etc. people around.  I got a really good review last year.  My boss is giving me really positive feedback.  But I’m not getting to the next step.  What’s going on?” 

Ultimately their issue likely comes down to a lingering issue in one of the areas above.

If you went to business school or worked for several years, you no doubt spent lots of hours learning your job function or discipline.  You have basic capabilities. That is necessary but not sufficient.  What will really set you apart from your co-workers and allow you to take the next step?  That is where Mentorforce University can help.  We will give you unparalleled access to the executive mindset and the decision criteria your company will likely use when the time comes for your next step.

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