Emerging Leaders: Shut Up!


Garden FlowersHere are three of the top questions this year emerging leaders are asking in our popular UGotClass online program Certificate in Leadership Development.

Q1: How can I as an emerging leader get more visibility?

Answer. Yvonne, the desire for visibility is a common misconception among young emerging leaders that usually has very bad results.  What you want to build is credibility, not visibility.

Credibility is built by being silent, not speaking out.  Smart emerging leaders, and even smart senior leaders, begin by being silent and only speaking when called upon by the leader.  In your first three meetings in any new organizational setting, do not say anything.  In a new job, do not  recommend or suggest anything. Instead, ask questions.  Questions are a great way to build credibility, as well as learn the ins-and-outs of the organizational and its leadership dynamics.

In meetings and other workplace situations, study body language and what the leader is saying. Then study body language and what other key players in the organization are saying. Get the lay of the land. Figure out the power players, the non-players.  Figure out who can be your confidante or mentor or guide.

Too many new people start by shooting from the hip by speaking out. This results in missing the organizational target, and more critically to your leadership potential, lost credibility.

Q2: Can you be a friend and boss at the same time?

Answer. Jessica, great question. The answer is “No.”

You can be “friendly” with others. You can have drinks, talk, share a laugh, a heartache. But you can never truly be friends in the unguarded way you would be friends with a sibling you like, or your college roommate.

You can be friends with other bosses in other organizations. You can be friends with relatives, people outside of work, neighbors.

It’s tough. But that’s how it has to be. There are some things you cannot tell subordinates at work, for the good of the organization.

Q3: How can you make sure the meeting will stay productive and not get derailed and off topic especially if it’s the leader that is doing it?

Answer. Carlos, an intimate or “right-hand man” or top deputy of the leader can. But you as a young or emerging leader? Probably not.

You risk huge loss of favor by correcting or any loss-of-face for the leader.

You should try to figure out if the leader has some intention to the “derail,” because there may be a reason. Other times, of course, there is no good reason.

Tips: 1) if you have the confidence of the leader you can make helpful suggestions that support the leader, like suggesting if you are running out of time that a sub-group could meet later in the day.

2) If you sense the leader is her or himself stumbling around and at loose ends, again you can make helpful suggestions that support the leader.

By “helpful” these would be in the eye of the leader, so maybe see how others who have the trust of the leader phrase suggestions or just comments that the leader sees as supportive of her or him.

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