Leadership Strategy Development – Part 2
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Oftentimes, aspiring leaders are said to be ambitious and driven – true! But more than anything I think leaders are simply able to identify opportunities, position themselves and play to their strengths.
In my previous article on Developing your Leadership Strategy, the ability to recognise and if necessary, create opportunities, was highlighted as one of the key objectives of aspiring leaders. With the goal of achieving leadership positions, individuals can have quite different approaches. Some let their actions speak for them, others push their actions to decision makers, while some explore many routes to leadership such as pursuing a multi-faceted approach; by making themselves significant subject experts in the industry, positioning themselves as the go-to person for insights and information.
Do you ever wonder how some names keep coming up at almost every professional seminar, workshop, lecture or event that you attend? Well, those individuals are strategic players in the art of positioning.
As earlier stated, aspiring leaders recognise that they are a unique brand that needs to be developed, positioned and promoted. This brings me to a skill that in my opinion is vital should you aspire to leadership positions – Networking.
“You’ve got to learn the footwork, the positioning, how to box out, how to pass, how to shoot your free throws. All these things are necessary, not to be the No. 1 player in the world, but maybe you can play against him.” – Oscar Robertson
In our daily interactions, we come across people who know someone in our network of contacts. It is important that we develop our network as a resource that can and will work for us. Sometimes, the thought of networking might seem daunting as it is assumed that we need to have a lot of people in our contact list – that was my initial thought! Alas, to my relief, numbers do not always equate to quality!
Strategically developing our network is made much easier when the groundwork of positioning oneself as a desirable brand is planned and executed. Targeting industry influencers may not be an easy feat and oftentimes we fail to consider other avenues to reach them. Great networkers not only have C-suite names in their contact list, but they are also adept at linking up with gatekeepers, headhunters and other not so obvious individuals that are vital sources of valuable information.
It is important to identify the purpose of your networking activities. If the aim is to manage current internal responsibilities, your network needs to be operational. You should identify your current needs, challenges, assigned departmental or organisational outcomes and develop a plan of action on how to use relevant people in your network to achieve desired outcomes.
How you position yourself in the network is key in this instance, this is where you implement your ability to create opportunities not only for yourself but also for the team, showcase your skills and knowledge and be instrumental in the creation of an efficient and functional team.
I believe that to use your network at an operational level, it is also significant that you build personal networking into your strategy. This way, you are able to improve your personal development and create a leadership style that will work for you.
Using a combination of operational and personal networks, aspiring leaders need to recognise that they have the recipe for strategic networking. This is the networking tool vital in the identification of new business or career directions, important stakeholders in the industry and an awareness of prevailing strategic thrust of competing players in the industry.
The goal here is to recognise where and how you fit and positioning yourself as the ideal person to help prospective employers achieve their strategic goals.
It is important to note that management positions are most times not actively advertised and those with the required skill sets may not be actively seeking new roles. Aspiring leaders should not close the doors to Executive Search Firms; that phone call might just be the opportunity to your next leadership role! Have relevant industry Head Hunters in your network, they are important sources of information on roles that may fit your profile. Liaising with Executive Search firms will give you an insight into current skill-set requirements in your industry which is an important intelligence that you need for planning your career progression.
Visibility to Executive recruiters is an important way to keep informed of relevant positions in your industry. However, note that building relationships with executive recruiters is a two-way street. If you are not accessible, you may be missing out on that ideal opportunity, as oftentimes the type of searches carried out by executive search firms are not usually advertised on conventional channels. C-Suite aspirants must ensure that they are visible to industry stakeholders and influencers in order to be considered for senior management positions.
As stated earlier, to make your network functional, ensure that you are involved in industry events either as a speaker or participant, have your publications on relevant professional media channels to position yourself as an industry/subject expert, and join relevant professional organisations. All of these will help to boost your networking capabilities and get you noticed by important stakeholders and most significantly by the Executive Search firms who have been retained by your desired employer to search and find you for your ideal position.