I’m 28 years old, male and single. I have a girl friend whom I love but I don’t want to marry her yet because I have not yet achieved my ambition of being a manager, just like her.
I have been working in the same company for seven years now but have not risen from the level of rank-and-file. What surprises, and even frustrates me, is that I graduated magna cum laude, with a double major, from a well-know university which is classified by CHED as a center of excellence; yet I’m still in a low status job. My parents have high expectations of me to be successful in my career. I also have high expectations of myself having worked hard to achieve academic success in school.
I don’t know what’s wrong: is it my organization’s system of promotion or is it with me? How will I know if I have what it takes to be a manager? What leadership abilities do I need? How do I know if I have leadership potentials? If I don’t have, can I be developed to become a leader? Who should develop me? How will I make myself visible in the organization so that I can be recognized and be considered for promotion?
Your frustration at not being promoted is exacerbated by your high expectations of yourself, and those of your parents to be successful in your career because you have graduated with high honors from an institution of excellence. You equate career success with promotion to higher levels of management. Further, you also want to rise to managerial status because you want to be like, or even perhaps surpass, your girlfriend.
The bad news is that there is no direct correlation between academic success and leadership competencies. The good news is that if you don’t have leadership potentials, you can develop yourself into a leader and, perhaps, thru conscious efforts on your part to be visible, your organization will notice you so that you can be sent to participate in leadership/management programs to hone your abilities, and be taken under the wings of a mentor in your field. But I want to caution you about your chances of being sent to leadership/ management programs and being under a mentor. These are usually given to employees who are recognized as high potentials for senior management positions.
So what can you do? Since you are highly motivated to be promoted, you must take proactive steps to develop your leadership capabilities. The first thing you have to do is to be aware of the characteristics of an effective leader. There are two ways of doing this: one, look for an effective leader in your organization. Perhaps one of your bosses can be your role model. They are an effective leader if they are listened to, they listen to others, are followed, and they achieve positive results. Study their attitudes and behaviors, verbal and non-verbal. List down what they say, how they say it, how they relate with people .e.g., their superiors, their peers and their subordinates.
The second way of knowing the characteristics of an effective leader is to read books on effective leadership. One of the great books I can recommend to you is “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by Dr. John Maxwell. Dr. Maxwell explains, in very simple terms and in an entertaining style, each law of leadership and illustrates it with interesting real-life stories of leaders in history: sports, corporate business setting, government, church, school, etc., as well as his own personal anecdotes, of successes and failures. Each law of leadership can be learned and applied in real life situations. From the leadership laws of Dr. Maxwell, you can validate the characteristic attitudes, values and behaviors of the effective leaders in your organization.
The second thing you can do to develop leadership abilities is to get good and accurate feedback about your interpersonal relations skills. These are the skills you use in creating rapport with people, in earning their trust and respect, and in being credible. How do you get this kind of feedback? There are at least three ways. One, observe your own behaviors when you are with a person or group. Do they listen to you? Do they take you seriously? If not, find out why not, and change accordingly. Two, ask your close friends for feedback about their observations of your behavior. Three, ask your boss for feedback about your interpersonal skills. Tell him/her honestly why you desire feedback i.e., to know how you can be an effective leader to increase your chances of promotion.
I want to correct your mindset that promotion is the gauge for career success. Not everyone who desires to be a leader/manager, can be a good one. You have to have the interest and motivation to work with a team and to achieve results thru people. You must be inclined to develop and coach each person in your team, according to their level of competence to become a high performing team member. A high IQ, technical competence, positive interpersonal relationship and leadership skills are basic to effective leadership. There are many people who can be successful in a professional (or technical) career path, but not in the managerial/leadership path. They contribute to their teams thru their subject-matter expertise and mastery. They are just as valuable to an organization as are those on the managerial path.
In time more organizations will be able to install dual career paths where those on a professional/technical path are given comparable rewards and benefits as those in the management path. However, to have career success requires that you are pursuing your interests/preferences such that you enjoy and are enthused with what you do, are using the talents God has given you, and you are benefiting people and yourself with what you do.
Meanwhile, how can you make yourself visible so that you are recognized and perhaps perceived as a high potential person in your organization? Let me share some ways you can have visibility:
- Achieve a level of mastery in your field. Read books and publications, browse the internet, talk to the experts/gurus in your field and learn from them.
- Always do high quality work to which you can give your “personal signature”. Make sure your work is submitted on time, under budget and according to the standards of your internal customers, i.e., those who will use your inputs for their outputs.
- Always deliver your commitments. Go the extra mile; do one more call; exceed standards.
- Help your superior do an excellent job and allow him/her to get the credit for it. Your superior is your #1 customer. Knowing his/her criteria for excellence and living up to them must be your guide.
- Sharpen your presentation skills and enhance your public speaking abilities by enrolling in training programs on these from your own funds. Volunteer to your superior to do a presentation for him/her to his/her own superior. Ask for feedback so you can improve.
- Ask for lateral moves for you to be multi-skilled, within your department and outside departments with which you interface.
- Find out what’s happening in other departments. Keep track of major projects outside your department.
- Volunteer for projects that have high visibility and in which you can contribute your expertise. These are likely to be projects with greater risks for failure. But with risks comes rewards.
- Be a good team player. Volunteer to help your fellow team members.
- Know and remember the names of your organization’s key executives. Greet them by name when you see them in the elevator, in the parking lot or in the hallway. Instead of “Good morning, Sir!” say instead, “Good morning, Mr. Santamaria!” and smile.
- If you have a company newsletter, contribute articles about your field, or about your hobby. Some senior managers may read it and identify with your interests or views. Additionally, your name will be in their consciousness.
Prepare yourself for promotion to team leader or to supervisor by knowing the requirements for the position. Qualify yourself. I believe in being upfront with your superior about your career goal and asking his/her inputs on how to maximize your probability of getting a promotion.
Developing the character and personality of a successful leader will require your life-long commitment and hard work, perseverance and proactivity. You can not be successful in all situations. Continue to look at and study positive role models of effective leadership. Even successful leaders continue to learn from their failures and from the experiences of other successful leaders.
God bless you.