How to Get Recognized as an Emerging Young Leader

This post recently appeared in SmartBlog on Leadership:

I recently asked readers to submit their burning leadership
development questions
. Those that get picked for a post will receive a free
copy of
my eBook.

This question from Nicholas:

“What are some good
ways to get recognized as an emerging young leader in your organization without
sounding like you’re trying to toot your own horn?”

My mother always told me if you just kept your head down and
did good work, you would get ahead in your career. While there is certainly
some truth to that advice, there’s a lot more too it when it comes to getting
noticed for your leadership
potential.

I’ll share some insider information with you as to how most
organizations look assess for leadership potential.

According to research
by the Corporate Leadership Council
, performance was found to be more of a
“gatekeeper” to being even considered for promotion to the next level. That is,
90% of “high potentials” were strong performers. So, yes, being great at
whatever you are doing matters. If you’re a poor or average performer in your
current role, you’ll never be considered for higher level responsibilities.  While we all like to think of ourselves of
being a top performer, the reality is, most of us are not. So step one,
especially early in a career, is to establish a consistent track record of
strong performance.

However, only 29% of high performers have what it takes to
succeed at the next level. Other factors come into play when it comes to
predicting success at the next level, including aspiration (willingness to take
on new, higher level responsibilities), engagement (your commitment and
willingness to go the extra mile), and ability (a combination of innate
characteristics and learned skills).

The good news is, many of the abilities that organizations
look at to evaluate leadership potential can
be
learned.
According
to Development Dimensions International
, employees that demonstrate the
following abilities have a strong chance at being successful in a senior
leadership role:

1. Propensity to lead. They step up to leadership
opportunities.
2. They bring out the best in others
3. Authenticity. They have integrity, admit mistakes, and don’t let their egos
get in their way
4. Receptivity to feedback. They seek out and welcome feedback
5. Learning agility.
6. Adaptability. Adaptability reflects a person’s skill at juggling competing
demands and adjusting to new situations and people. A key here is maintaining
an unswerving, “can do” attitude in the face of change.
7. Navigates ambiguity. This trait enables people to simplify complex issues
and make decisions without having all the facts.
8. Conceptual thinking. Like great chess players and baseball managers,
the best leaders always have the big picture in mind. Their ability to think
two, three, or more moves ahead is what separates them from competitors.
9. Cultural fit
10. Passion for results

So, I’d suggest evaluating yourself against these
characteristics and see where you stack up. Of course, there are limits to
self-assessment (we tend to be clueless as to how we are perceived by others),
so it’s even better if you can get
some
candid feedback
from your boss or others.

Then, identify 1-2 things you need to get better at and create
a development plan to address those areas. I’d recommend sharing it with boss,
for a number of reasons.  First of all,
to get your bosses feedback, and secondly, to get additional ideas and support.
Finally, going back to the “aspiration” component of potential, to show that
you’re interested in leadership development and willing to do what it takes to
learn and grow.

Just one more thing when it comes to “tooting your own
horn”. That’s something many of us are not comfortable with, and no one wants
to be seen as a self-promoting blowhard. It’s always better when other people toot your horn for you.
That is, your boss and decision makers are hearing good things about you behind
your back, from
your
peers
and others. Given that, managers, as much as they should, are not
always aware of every one of their employee’s accomplishments. It’s up to you
to humbly let them know on a regular basis during your regular meetings, and
especially during your annual performance review. A lot of managers will ask
for performance review “input” – this is the one time per year that you are allowed
to loudly toot that horn.

It’s the lucky few that can just consistently shine and get
picked for one plum role after another. The rest of have to work hard at it, do
a little self-promotion, and have the confidence to ask for it when the
opportunity presents itself.