During the various development dialogues I have had my teams across businesses, if there is one common thread running across the aspirational dream, then it is that of leading the communications function. I love it when a colleague aims for the top. It shows they are ambitious, and one can then assess the drive and stretch point up to which the colleague can go to achieve her/his dream.
What does it then take to lead a team and deal with all the complexities associated with it? In my role as a leader, more than 70% of my time is focused on the growth and development of my team members. It is all about pushing their boundaries and having to raise the bar with each success. But this is easier said then done. Leading a team is no cakewalk and everyday is a learning. There are many dimensions
No two people are alike
In 1986 as a student of social work with Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), I lead a small group of my classmates for an impact assessment survey (because of the Bhopal gas leak) that we had been authorised to do by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. In my role as the leader of that group I was keen that my members keep up with my speed and be at the finishing line with me. In the evenings we would gather around to share the reports, look for gaps in the survey forms and form a consolidated update. A slight delay by even one team member meant a delay in closing the day’s report. Navigating different speed levels of individuals was not an easy task and the Bhopal experience taught me how to be patient and accept diversity in a team.
Tip: Take up a project/assignment where you can lead an activity – this will give you the experience and hone you for your future role as a leader
Agree to disagree
Leadership is not about dominance. It is about listening to others and agreeing to disagree. It involves having the strength to absorb criticism and deal with your own feelings. The first time you encounter this, it can hit hard, real hard. Check yourself here – how did you react? Did you get defensive? Did you accept the feedback? If yes, what did you do with it?
Tip: Take feedback seriously and connect with the person to understand how you can improve and grow. Remember, if there is room for error, then there is room for improvement as well
Even as you are in your journey of defining yourself as a leader, you can give back via reverse mentoring. I have signed up for regular reverse mentoring from my colleagues and am learning about AI, Block chain, use of big data and much more! As a young mentor you will have the unique opportunity to interact with leaders/senior management and this is clearly a winning situation. Give back.
Tip: Identify your unique skills. Practice mentoring by first initiating it within your close circle and network
In our organisations we often come across project meetings for something that is of interest to us. Invite yourself in and participate. You know your interests best. Seek out events/seminars/conferences that can enhance your understanding of the subject. It does not matter if you have not been invited. Be the initiator and be known, seen and heard.
Tip: Keep an eye out for programs on subjects that intrigue and enthrall you. Take the first step to invite yourself and contribute to the discussion
Leadership is not about designations. I have mentioned this earlier as well. Leadership skills can be applied even if you are an individual contributor or at an entry level in your career. Many a times we tend to slot leadership as per the designation and rank of an individual. Nothing could be more erroneous.