How to Become a Future Leader

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Introducing Dan Schwabel, a Millennial who has a lot of wisdom to share about Gen Y Careers, Workplace Trends and Personal Branding.  One of the reasons I am drawn to Dan and his work is that at it’s heart Dan writes about freedom.  His new book, Promote Yourself, is out this week.  As Seth Godin puts it: “This is a book about freedom. The freedom to chart your own path, make your own ruckus and stand up and say to the world, “here, I made this.” 

I can’t think of a better message to be sharing the day after the Labor Day Holiday in the US than one that shows practical ways for “workers” to become leaders in their place of work.

source - freedigitalphotos.netYour company needs you to become a leader.

The problem most corporations have right now is that employees don’t stay at the same job for life. The average professional has eleven jobs between the ages of 18 and 34. Companies are having to constantly hire from the outside in order to fill their management positions.

One of the greatest opportunities in the current economy is to become an invaluably employee and position yourself for leadership positions instead of leaving.

Smart companies will be constantly looking for and evaluating potential leaders in hopes that they can fill senior level positions.

You can become a future leader by focusing on improving these aspects of yourself and how you work:

1. Focus on soft skills over hard ones.

In a new study I did with American Express, we found that managers are looking for soft skills over hard skills when promoting. Just doing your job isn’t enough – you have to learn how to communicate, build relationships and prioritize work. You need to be able to wrap your head around office politics, form alliances and work effectively in a team if you want to be a future leader.

2. Become a subject matter expert.

If you want to stand out at work and gain visibility and recognition, you need to be an expert on a particular topic. If you’re well versed on a topic, and it’s important to the company, people will be knocking at your door and your value will skyrocket. You will be given opportunities to present to other teams and you will be able to demand promotions because you’ll have the leverage to do so.

3. Get as much face time as you can with your manager.

While many employees rely on instant messaging and email to communicate, managers are looking for in-person meetings. 66% of managers say that in-person meetings are their preferred way of communicating with employees. The more your manager sees you and knows what you’re capable of, the more you’ll be viewed as a future leader. The problem most people have is that they spend all of their time with their head down looking at their phone or tablet device instead of at people.

4. Take on projects outside of your job description.

If all you do is what’s listed in your job description, you can’t get ahead at work. You must always push yourself outside of your normal job activities to take on additional responsibilities. 58% of managers are either very willing or extremely willing to support an employee who wants to capitalize on a new business opportunity at work. By taking on additional projects, you will further your next, develop your skills and be better positioned for leadership opportunities.

Dan Schawbel is a Gen Y career and workplace expert, the Founder of Millennial Branding and the author of the new book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press).


Enter A Comment

zahra esmaeili   |   03 September 2013   |   Reply

hi ! I want to write an article about great teams in information technology major, please help me and name some of these teams …
thanks a lot :)

Bill Benoist | Leadership Heart Coaching   |   03 September 2013   |   Reply

Hi Dan,

Great post and someone who did their graduate work on generational differences and leadership, I am definitely looking forward to reading your book.

As a Baby Boomer who is winding down my career as a manager in the IT environment, I am actively working on developing my successor – who happens to be Gen Y. The need for soft skills is spot on, especially working with C-level boomer executives.

I have found (at least in my organization) priorities and values are not often in sync between these two generational cultures. Both are deeply concerned about the organization, but the methods may be totally different. I do believe that Generation Y members who recognize this – who can step into the shoes of a Baby Boomer C-Level executive and understand what those driving forces are will go far.

Dan Schawbel   |   05 September 2013   |   Reply

I wish more boomers like you would focus on succession planning.

Ara Ohanian   |   05 September 2013   |   Reply

Dan, great advice and you’re right that every employee should have the ambition to lead their team, their department, the whole company. In my experience as the leader of an international tech company my best team members have adopted your approach which I summarize as this: play to your strengths, work on your weaknesses, get outside your comfort zone.

Dan Schawbel   |   05 September 2013   |   Reply

I’ve learned this all too well from Marcus Buckingham. If you double down on your strengths you will be more successful.