Photo: Samuel Zeller
Everyone wants to advance forward in their career, but sometimes that can be easier said than done. You have to set goals and determine certain benchmarks for yourself in order to prove that you have what it takes to move up the ladder.
Whether you’re working in an entry-level position or advancing to a junior executive role, being a leader is about continually developing and finessing hard and soft skills. Those hard leadership skills are the ones that helped you get hired — having the proven ability to perform your duties within a specific position — while soft skills tie in more with likeability and personality. The goals you have will ultimately shift as you continue to advance forward. Here are the key areas to focus on in order to become a well-rounded leader.
Entry level: Develop rapport with employees
Most employees that start off in entry-level positions are hungry to learn and eager to please. They are willing to go above and beyond in the duties required of them, often burying themselves in their work. However, they should also be willing to leave the cubicle and focus on soft skills like building relationships with their fellow coworkers.
Developing these kinds of relationships does more than allow you to engage with everyone and be considered likable because of it. Communication is considered to be one “Fundamental 4” core leadership skills for every career. If you want to become a successful leader, you need to be able to write clearly, speak with clarity, and use active listening behaviors when communicating with your team.
What does developing an early rapport with other team members do for you in the long run?
- It allows you to better understand how to connect with employees from all walks of life.
- A good communicator comes across as competent, which inspires employees to trust and believe in you.
- You create a reputation for yourself as someone who is present with your team.
Junior level: Articulate your vision
You’ve progressed a little further up the career ladder by now. You understand what you’re doing and have established solid relationships with your team. Now, it’s time to develop the vision you have for the department you work in — and the company overall — and work on the qualities of a great leader.
How should you define your vision? Ideally, it should be clear, concise, and realistic to keep your team on the same page. Identify core values to establish your personal vision. Ideally, these values should align with the beliefs that matter most to you. Once you’ve figured out what your values are, it will be much easier to determine your vision and set your goals. Your team is likely to start seeing you as a leader, thanks to how passionate your vision is, and will stand behind you to help you get to where you’re going.
Senior level: Keep learning and get outside of your comfort zone
By the time you’ve reached a senior position, you may feel inclined to coast for a bit on your accomplishments. It’s not entirely necessary to prove yourself as a leader anymore, but it’s also not time to rest on your laurels for too long.
Learning agility is considered to be #4 on the Fundamental 4 list, where you maintain a mindset that allows for continual learning. You should be ready and willing to make try new approaches, make mistakes, and request feedback from your team. Some of the end results may not always be positive, but the experience is the teacher. When you are reinforcing a mindset of learning in yourself, it will rub off on everyone else and create a like-minded culture for your team.
You should also be ready and willing to exit your comfort zone. This relates to the concept of HARD goals. SMART goals — an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound — tend to be everyone’s go-to since they’re easy to set. However, it’s HARD goals (Heartfelt, Animated, Required, and Difficult) that get you to the goals you dream of achieving. This encourages you to step out of what you are most comfortable with and take chances. If you always wanted to implement a new idea or strategy for completing a task, now is your chance! These goals will challenge you to achieve bigger and better things. As a leader, you will even have more support because your passion is so visible to your team.
Remember that having a career is a constant and continuous learning process. You will always be looking for new insights and to acquire new skills as you work your way up because there is always so much more to learn. Most great leaders never stop learning either; rather, they keep developing their leadership skills. Your path to success begins by establishing valuable relationships, identifying your vision, and continuing to push yourself past your comfort zone.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.