Business Today

Do you have what it takes?

Start preparing to be a leader before you get the role.

Saumya Bhattacharya | Print Edition: Nov 28, 2010

Around six months ago, Ragini (name changed) got the promotion she had been waiting for, and began leading a team of four in her company's human resources department. A mid-level manager with more than five years of experience, Ragini has since struggled at her job. "For the first time in my career, I just cannot control and manage my work the way I had been doing earlier," she says. She has been asked to lead, but is not equipped to be a leader yet.

What has gone wrong with her performance? After the promotion, Ragini has been playing more roles and it is no longer about her core competence. She is now leading the team, communicating with other teams, resolving conflicts and aligning her team to her thinking.

Ragini is not alone. Young managers like her often struggle to adjust in their new roles as leaders. Talent experts say people like Ragini have to start preparing for leadership before they are given a leadership role. "Becoming a leader does not occur by osmosis.

If you want to be a leader, you need to work at it," says organisational behaviour expert Lloyd Baird in his book Leading People. Sure, your organisation has identified you for the coveted leadership programme, but if you lack some skill or experience, be proactive and get it now.

Rajeev Peshawaria, CEO of ICLIF Leadership and Governance Centre in Malaysia, has often asked young employees with leadership potential to count the former bosses who they consider as good leaders. "More often than not, the answer is zero or one," he says.

1.Ask to be assigned challenging projects early in your career
2.Watch how different people approach and solve problems
3.Get cross-functional exposure as soon as you can
4.Ask to be on a team working on a merger or acquisition
5.Communicate with your seniors and peers on their expectations
6.Ask for feedback. Be open to helpful criticism
7.If you feel you lack critical skills, enrol in leadership development programmes
Source: Leading People (Harvard Business School Press), HR experts

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