A Simple Way to Rise to Your Next Level of Leadership

A Simple Way to Rise to Your Next Level of Leadership

We all have a next level of leadership we can aspire to. For some, what that next level actually looks like is crystal clear; but for most, it’s more of a concept than a clearly defined end state.

Yet regardless of your level of clarity about what that next level is for you, there are clues in your everyday experiences that can show you opportunities to reach for it.

One of the best places to look for a clue to your next level of leadership is where you tend to second-guess yourself.

A client recently shared that she had not been invited to a meeting that was being held for a team she was actually on. A logical assumption would have been that it was an oversight. Yet she found herself second-guessing that logical assumption.

What was the source of her second-guessing her judgment of the situation?

She had given some tough feedback to the leader of that team the previous week and hadn’t heard back from him. His further actions made it clear he didn’t take her feedback into account. In her mind, she had constructed a story that he was angry and might intentionally be leaving her out of the next meeting. That concern was holding her back from taking the simple and logical step of asking the meeting organizer if an error had been made.

Now, of course, she quickly recognized what she needed to do and took action. It was indeed an oversight.

Yet her second-guessing of the situation was instructive because it demonstrated she still had room to grow in her comfort level with speaking up to those in higher level positions.

A simple way to access your next level of leadership…

One of the ways to get past the discomfort of speaking up and stepping up to that next level is a practice I refer to as “act as if.”

In this case, she acted as if her feedback was well received and appreciated, and as if she was supposed to be at that meeting. To be able to act as if, you need to first construct a plausible story that gives you the certainty and confidence you need in order to take action.

When your fear is guiding your imagination, however, you are likely to construct a story that justifies your choice to hold back from taking action.

The thing to remember is that you can consciously choose to imagine a better case scenario that is just as plausible as the one that could be reinforcing your fear and holding you back.

Of course, you may still need to act in spite of some level of fear. Yet when you actively imagine a better case scenario, you will naturally exude more confidence in your speaking and action.

Another example of “acting as if” to rise to your next level of leadership…

Early in my career, I was told that I would know I was ready to be promoted to the next level when I was already performing at that level. So I started closely observing the thinking and behavior of those above me in the hierarchy, so I could identify what I was either not doing — or somehow thought I should not be doing — because I was not at that level yet.

The risk at that time for me was standing out among my peers. After all, it is far more comfortable to fit in.

Nevertheless, I started experimenting with this practice of “acting as if” I were in that next level position. To be clear, I was NOT acting “as if” I was the boss of anyone. Instead, I began a practice of speaking up and stepping up with an intention to make a bigger difference in the role I currently held.

Sometimes it worked, and sometimes there was a lesson to learn. Yet, with every action, I learned. Over time, I grew both my capabilities and my confidence.

Rising to the next level of leadership requires that you take action.

Yet one thing became clear — you cannot grow to the next level by reading books, taking a class, or simply thinking about getting to the next level. You must actually take action in real life, or you will never really confront what it takes to close the gap between who you are now and who you aspire to become.

So the next time you find yourself filled with self doubt, or imagining a story about your situation that allows your fear to get in the way of taking action, consider “acting as if.”

Remember that you will never really know who you can be until you muster the courage to take that next step.

You might even be surprised at who you have already become in the process!


Image credit: Pexels


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