Learning to Lead

Author: Angela Campiere       

You might not be managing your company’s meetings department yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start honing your leadership skills today.

Learning to lead is a bucket-list item for many young professionals. According to The Hartford’s 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey, 80 percent of millennials are currently leaders in some aspect of their life and 69 percent aspire to be leaders in the next five years. While you may or may not have much real-world leadership experience to date, that doesn’t mean you can’t start — or continue — to hone your leadership skills.

According to another survey on millennial leadership, this time by leadership training firm Virtuali and WorkplaceTrends.com, 43 percent of millennial leaders said that “empowering others” was their biggest motivator and 63 percent said they aspired to be a “transformational” leader, meaning they “seek to challenge and inspire their followers with a sense of purpose and excitement.”

So how do you start crafting your transformational leadership style? “Be consciously aware, and intentionally observe what other leaders are doing that’s working or what they’re doing that’s not working,” Kevin Eikenberry, chief potential officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, told U.S. News in an interview. This means paying attention to the way your company’s leaders — or leaders within your community — communicate, organize, and build relationships. Having concrete examples of leadership successes or failures to refer back to is a helpful way to guide your leadership decisions or style.

Seeking out a mentor is also considered an invaluable tool when you’re learning to lead. According to the Virtuali survey, 53 percent of the millennials surveyed said that mentoring is/would be the most effective training for their development as a leader. Beyond just quietly observing leadership behaviors and attitudes, a two-way mentorship allows you to get involved with real-world leadership scenarios by asking your mentor questions and analyzing the reasoning behind the decisions that are being made.

Creating your own opportunities and volunteering for leadership positions is another strategic way you can get leadership experience, experts say. “One of the smartest things you can do early in your career is volunteer for something no one else wants to do,” millennial leadership consultant Lindsey Pollak told U.S. News. “People will notice that [you’ve stepped up], and you’ll learn so much.”

Since learning how to lead is an ongoing task, find out how you can use critical feedback to your  advantage and help further your professional and leadership development.

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