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10 Signs You Are (or could be) an Emerging Leader

December 6, 2017 | LinkedIn

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:

  1. You are a high performer in your organization. This is the number one way to get recognized and promoted. At least once. After people move from front-line contributor to manager, solo performance matters less and the ability to lead others matters more. But when “high performance” gets confused with “ability to lead” people often stall out in their careers. Being thought of as an “emerging leader” and being promoted based on your own performance is no guarantee of continued career growth.
  2. You show high potential in your current role. When others recognize capacity, they look for ways to stretch it with additional responsibilities and opportunities. Being stretch-able signifies that an individual may be a strong asset and, possibly, a future leader.
  3. You informally influence others. In our social circles and workplaces, there are always people who rally or inspire us. We may not know why or how they do this, especially if those individuals aren’t appointed to do so. The result is that we follow them. Therefore, they are leading.
  4. You supervise others. Management titles are often confused with leadership skills. Those are two entirely separate things. However, it is reasonable for people to look to their Supervisors for leadership. Anyone who is a supervisor or manager should seriously consider becoming a leader, too.
  5. You are open to learning, failing and growing. Leaders experiment, take risks, fail forward and try again. They seek opportunities to be challenged and to challenge others.
  6. You have strong people-building skills. Leaders build other leaders. Hoarding talents, tasks or knowledge creates an unsustainable workload and deprives others of development.
  7. You are centered by your core values. Leaders know who they are and what they stand for. They make decisions based on their core values and are clear and consistent in aligning their actions with those values.
  8. You see possibilities for a better future state. Leaders are not satisfied with the status quo. Managers may be, but leaders are interested in taking people somewhere new.
  9. You unite others and help them see new possibilities. Leaders have followers. When an individual (regardless of title or position) bring others together, inspiring and encouraging them, that’s a sure sign of leadership.
  10. You want to become a leader. This may be the most important one of all. Your desire to become a leader (not to be confused with a desire to become a manager!), is essential if you are to do the work of emerging. It requires learning about leadership, developing the behaviors of a leader, and staying committed to your own continual development.

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.

About Catalyst Connection

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.