By Deb Calvert, People First Productivity Solutions
It's not about age.
A research project sponsored by the Center for Creative Leadership defined “emerging leaders” as professional staff under age 35. That narrow, age-based definition has become popularized.
But being an “emerging leader” has nothing to do with age or job grade.
Broken down into its component pieces, we can define this more broadly and more appropriately. Why? Because you may be an Emerging Leader without even knowing it; missing out on opportunities to fully liberate the leader within.
The word “emerge” means “to rise or come forth; to develop.” Emerge is used to describe coming forth from a place of concealment and to become visible. The Middle French and Latin word origins include a richer meaning, one that includes the deliberate action of “bringing to light” something that was hidden.
What’s being brought to light? Your capability to lead or, said another way, your choice to behave in a way that will cause others to willingly choose to follow you.
Leadership is a choice. It is not related to age, title, authority, natural-born characteristics or any other arbitrary quality. Leadership happens when people choose to behave in ways that make them effective in guiding others. Research validates that anyone can be a leader IF they consistently demonstrate the behaviors that others seek from those they will follow.
These behaviors are not mysterious, difficult to learn or dependent on seniority or status. The research of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner provides an elegant framework for leadership that includes the Five Practices of Exemplary Leaders® in a body of work known as The Leadership Challenge®.
But back to you. Will others recognize you as an emerging leader?
It’s a fair question.
There is a misperception in the corporate world that suggests “emerging leaders” are young. Certainly, organizations should consider some millennials as emerging leaders – after all, by 2020 a full 46% of the U.S. workforce will be from this generation. But don’t miss the fact that 54% of the workforce will NOT be from this generation. It isn’t age alone that qualifies someone to be an emerging leader.
Organizations must think more broadly. The Global Human Capital Trends report issued by Deloitte in late 2014 indicates that 83% of companies are seriously worried about their leadership pipelines. Deloitte concludes that leadership development is the single most important human capital area companies should invest in today in order to remain strong tomorrow.
Organizations must also break old habit. The Center for Creative Leadership reported in their Leadership Insights Survey that 95% of employers think leadership development should begin by age 21. But…Jack Zenger writes in Harvard Business Review that the average age for people to get their first leadership training is age 42. That’s half a lifetime later than they need it! Worse yet, that’s an average of 10 years after those same people started supervising others.
We have it backwards. But you can change things for yourself and maybe even for your organization. You can step out as a leader and find ways to emerge by demonstrating leadership behaviors.
If you meet any one of these ten requirements, then you already are or could easily be seen as an Emerging Leader:
Remember, it only takes one of those ten requirements to be seen as an emerging leader. From that springboard, you can develop the key behaviors that will solidify your leadership. It is a choice you can make for yourself.
Making this choice will align you, career-wise, with what the C-Suite is thinking. The 2015 Trends, as reported in Training Industry Magazine’s article called “How C-Level Executives View Corporate Training,” put Leadership as the competency that will be most in demand over the next three years.
Are you an emerging leader? Would you like to be? It starts, quite simply, with a conscious choice.
Based in Pittsburgh, Catalyst Connection is an economic development organization dedicated to helping small manufacturers to improve their competitive performance. Catalyst advisors, consultants, and instructors offer training, consulting and administer financial programs that can provide funding for equipment, machinery, or capital improvements. As a nonprofit 501 (c)3 firm, the organization has been supporting Southwestern Pennsylvania manufacturers for more than 25 years. For more information call 1-888-887-7472 or go to www.catalystconnection.org.