Leadership takes more than confidence, industry knowledge and decision-making smarts.
It is more than a bundle of traits and knowledge applied to managing people. Looking for self-help lists for becoming a leader? You will find body postures, power moves and negotiation tactics to practice.
These are all proven to help project power to some extent, but for someone newly appointed to a leadership position, if they have nothing else, they will need to apply these as a ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy until they see themselves as leaders.
While researching hurdles women face for success in the corporate environment I found one of the best articles I’ve ever read on the subject, “Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers”. This article discusses the developmental needs of any individual to stay successful in higher ranks once placed there.
“People become leaders by internalizing a leadership identity… ...internalizing a sense of oneself as a leader is an iterative process.”
It is hard not to be reminded of awkward teens experimenting and proving their identity. We are ‘teens’ at any new thing we’re trying, and it's OK.
Unfortunately, corporate literature is not known for discussing the importance of building confidence in employees about to become leaders and in those who they will lead. Identity development is a secluded topic for early educators and psychologists. But to build a fleet of fantastic leaders there needs to be a culture shift. Those cited for a leadership position need:
- Safe environment to test tactics
- Time to absorb leader as new identity
- Curing period, where peers can affirm or deny their leadership decisions
This process is under-appreciated in corporate initiatives because we not only tend to give leadership to those who look like leaders on the outside but also because the process of developing those who do not seem like natural leaders takes wisdom and time. This process involves mentoring by current leaders, practicing patience by the entire organization, and a culture of understanding that, even as adults, we need time to try our new legs out.