Part of the European Emerging Leaders Network Roundtable Discussion
Each individual has the responsibility to take charge of his or her own development and career. Those eager to do this should keep the following in mind:
- Burst the bubble: It is easy to get comfortable with doing what you know works and looking for the commonplace solution. Operating inside the “bubble” of the known prevents you from driving innovation forward.
- Investigate cross-department and cross-industry opportunities: Employers today are generally quite open to allowing employees to work for a time in different areas within the company, or even to leave the company for a time to gain particular skills and experience, to be rehired later. For example, individuals with front-of-house expertise may desire experience in back-of-house, or employees working in a property-level role may aspire to a corporate position.
- Know exactly where you want to go and communicate it: Barriers to career growth are often self-inflicted, meaning you shouldn’t wait for your boss or the company to advance your career. It is incumbent upon you, as an up-and-comer, to be empowered to speak up and openly discuss your career ambitions with your superior. Specify what you want to do then assert you are ready for the next role and ask for help getting there.
- Demonstrate your success to get noticed: Be ready to produce a measurable track record of your results in prior roles, in terms of sustainability credentials, financial performance and team-building and management. Incorporate metrics wherever possible.
- Be relatable: The most successful career candidates have personal competencies headed by being charismatic and engaging as well as credible and confident.
- Leverage your personal network: Talk about your career with two or three trusted advisors. Ask for their perspective on your strengths and weaknesses and how they may see this apply to different roles or industries. How does your profile compare with other applicants for the job you are after?
- Make sure an advanced degree will have an ROI: Taking on additional education is an excellent way to strengthen your knowledge and perspective, but be very certain the time, effort and money required will represent added value for employers you may wish to join in the future.
- Avoid being pigeonholed: Learn to say no to opportunities that keep you stuck in the same career track. Express gratitude for what you are learning in your present position, but make sure your superiors are aware of your aspirations and interest in exploring new avenues that could allow you to contribute more fully to the organisation.
What else defines a future leader? In a business environment growing more complex and ambiguous almost by the minute, leaders will need skills that allow them to navigate quickly and well across multiple information and decision-making streams. Being an expert in a particular field can be helpful, but at the very top of an organisation this can be a liability. It’s important to learn to delegate well, involving yourself in a deep dive to course-correct and redirect only when needed. Keep your eye on the big picture and avoid being drawn into one particular area or issue. Also, as a leader, you want to make sure people believe in you and trust you. At the same time, you need to have the gumption to go for things you believe are right. This is where taking on “servant leadership” as a philosophy can be particularly effective, shifting the role of leader from sole focus on the thriving of the company to prioritise supporting your people. This approach allows you to deal with difficult situations; you know you can trust your team, and your team can trust you. By taking charge of your own career, taking accountability and responsibility and staying focused on how you can best serve your company and your employees, you also serve yourself in the best possible way and will be recognised for doing so.
Moreover, it is important to seek out scenarios that challenge and even terrify you. There is less competition for these, and you will learn more and have a greater chance of making a difference and standing out when you succeed. One might say that aspiring future leaders should aim high and prepare well. Think logistically and consult with others, learn new skills and be willing to fail, as you will learn from the process.
In summary, here are some ‘top tips’:
- Be nimble, flexible and adaptive; think outside the box.
- Stay focused on the big picture; learn to delegate well but know when to make a deep dive.
- Have the ability to be hands-on as needed and lead by example.
- Espouse “servant leadership.”
- Break the glass ceiling by looking out for team members ready to take the next step up.
- Never lose sight of where you want to go.
- Be professional, no matter what.
- Avoid any sense of entitlement—remember that humbleness is an appealing characteristic in almost any circumstance.