“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration.” – Robin S. Sharma
We keep hearing that younger generations are too entitled and always complaining about their jobs.
That said, for Millennials, aside from wanting better work-life balance and recognition, they are still relatively happy with their career. Gen Z, however, is considered the most frustrated generation with 20% finding no satisfaction in their job.
Considering that they will soon become the largest part of the workforce, it’s important to address this issue.
The old way of working was somehow easier. You study, you work hard, you’ll get more money. If you are good you’ll be picked for the opportunity. And if you stick around long enough, you’ll eventually get promoted.
The new reality, however, sees an increase in work mobility, with ever-changing roles and responsibilities.
As the rules of the games have changed and work stability is no longer a guarantee, what many people are valuing has also changed.
What many workers want now is:
Recognition – the days when you were all you wanted was that your boss thought you have done a decent job are gone. People want to know clearly what they are doing well, and where to improve.
Making an impact – when you spend so much time at work, you want to know that what you do is worth the effort.
Feeling you are growing – Learning is this great place where you know you are doing your best, yet you still do not know everything. It keeps you motivated day after day because you know there is always something more to come.
The biggest challenge everyone I encounter usually falls under one of the above points.
It’s then very easy to think that all those areas are where managers need to support them, and when that doesn’t happen, they feel very frustrated. So, is it all about bad managers?
What is Toxic Leadership?
With up to 40% of employees stating they are quitting because of their manager, it seems that they are the main scape’s goat of companies’ failure to keep their employees.
There are a lot of talks about toxic leaders. And that these ‘leaders’ are only good at preaching, but not so much when it comes to their own actions. They are those that can make our day miserable just by sending a quick message that they’d like to talk with us.
If you had worked with someone like that in the past, it’s easy to generalize and make the assumption that most managers are bad.
But when you spend time looking closely at the issue the reality is different; the portion of toxic leadership is actually tiny.
Most of the time, you may have managers who are busy, struggling, trying to figure things out, exactly like everyone else. They are great imperfect humans trying their best.
The fact that their role is above yours or regarded as your superior at work, doesn’t mean that they can solve everything for you.
Managers tend to do the same, they always wait for someone above to drive the change, as they believe they do not have enough power to fix things.
The big issue around this idea is that you leave your future in the hands of what others do, and associate your self-worth with other people’s decisions.
This is very risky! Leaving your growth in someone else’s hands can only lead to disappointment.
We keep waiting for them to do something for us, while often they struggle themselves, so we are all trapped in this never-ending cycle of increasing unhappiness.
What you need to do is really simple: Stop waiting, and take back control.
Leadership is not a title; it’s about helping yourself to find your own way forward.
By doing so you also can inspire and help others to do the same. If you want others to take risks and grow, then you need to step up yourself first, and only then support them in doing so.
So let’s give the role of leadership a bit more clarity by understanding that:
Leadership is not a title bestowed upon you
Leadership is not a role you have in an organization
Leadership is not something that you are born with
What Can You Do to Become a Leader?
The first step to becoming a leader is that everyone can become one.
To be a successful leader, you need to develop your own confidence, knowing that whatever you really want to accomplish is in your control.
And to be successful in getting there you can follow these steps:
1. Set the Direction
Knowing what you really want is the first point you have to figure out. It’s the most critical, so you need to ponder and reflect with intention before moving to the following ones.
When you think about your life it’s great to have big ambitions and dreams, yet when you think about which direction you want your life or career to take you often come up with lousy goals.
If you look back at your childhood you might remember when you wanted to become an astronaut, a doctor, or save the dolphins. Then as we grow up, routine kicks in and we forget about them. The reason is that the current reality and what we want seem to be too far apart.
When you think about what you want in your work and life, you have the same issue, your dream seems so unreachable that you do not even try.
While goals and milestones always need to have a certain deadline, dreams do not: they are the vision that inspires us to keep going.
Only after you have set the direction, you can move your attention to what you can do to get there. Having big dreams is as important as thinking about the very next step to get there.
2. Own the Change
We already spoke about how we spend so much time waiting for something to happen or for someone to do something so that we can move forward.
“I would but I can’t” it’s the excuse we use most of the time to do nothing and stay in our comfort zone.
Keep in mind that there is always something within your control to drive the change.
Let’s imagine you believe it’s time for you to get promoted. It’s normal to think that aside from doing a good job, there is nothing else you can do.
It’s true that the final outcome will come from your boss and there might be some regulations/procedures within your company that can’t be controlled. However, there is much that you can do within your control.
For example, you can request a clear discussion with your manager about the possibility of a promotion. Then, you can figure out what is needed to get to the next role. You can also ask other questions in order to ensure they have all the information needed to push you forward when the time comes.
Keeping track of your success and ensuring you can showcase when they are needed is the simplest yet one of the most underestimated actions you can take when seeking to level up in your job or career.
3. Ask for Help
Owning your growth doesn’t mean that you do not have to do everything on your own. Knowing what you are very good at, and when you better have someone helping you with is one of the key skills of a leader.
Ask yourself who is in your support group. Who can help you to get to that next milestone in your dream vision?
Your manager, might be the one to help you when you need to solve a challenge, your mentor might be the one to go to when you need stuck, and your colleague can give you a hand when you do not know something or need to laugh, and obviously your friends and family can be there to cheer and support you when you are down.
Remember, leaders are not born, they are made.
The best leaders are those who have been around for a while and have learned from their mistakes, as well as those who have gained valuable experience and knowledge about what works best for them in order to lead themselves and others effectively.
Too many people get stuck waiting for the change. While all you have to do is lead the change you seek.
Oftentimes, working with a coach with an unbiased view will help you clear your mind and understand both the direction that you really seek and how to close the gap to get there. So, don’t hesitate to reach out for support & guidance!