Be mindful of your surroundings
It is also very important not only to feel the thrill of increasing one’s leadership responsibility, but to be equally aware of the costs and psychological burden associated with leadership roles. Observe people in your and other organisations whom you consider to be good leaders and think about the potentially negative sides of their jobs: delivering negative news, taking difficult decisions, or being held responsible for the organisation’s performance, even if the latter is beyond their immediate control.
Understanding and accepting the costs of leading, assuming that you still want to lead after this exercise, may actually make going through tough leadership moments later in your leadership experience easier, as you will have no access to psychological excuse of not having known or thought about the less pleasant aspects of the leadership role.
If after exploring your motivation to lead and potential cost of leading you want to continue with your leadership growth and development, go and seek feedback. What is it that people value you most for in your organisation? What are the sources of your personal power, something that is associated with your skills, competencies or relationships that can serve a foundation for building further your capacity to influence people? What is it that people believe you should be doing differently or stop doing overall? Gathering feedback is only part of the process. You need to work with the data received and make sense of it. In some cases, you may have to go for even further feedback, particularly if you hear something surprising. It is important to remember that acting on the feedback is not the only option available: in some cases you may choose to continue without modifying anything in your specific behavior, as long as you are ready to face the consequences of making no change.
You can then reinforce the analysis from the feedback with exploring the experience and wisdom of people in the organisation who are in higher level positions and who can become your informal mentors. In some occasions you may want to avoid using the term “mentor” and simply seek opportunities for informal conversations with those people who you believe can be good sources of information and advice.
Even if you don’t have access to experienced individuals in higher level positions in your organisation, you would still be better served if in your leadership development efforts you can rely on a sparring partner or someone with whom you can bounce back ideas and explore questions of importance to you. Peer coaching can become a powerful leadership development opportunity that you can deploy without the involvement of your organisations and any budgets. All you need is a partner who is interested in sharing mutual developmental efforts. It is important that the relationship with your peer coach is based on principles of reciprocity, trust, and psychological safety. The person with whom you engage in peer coaching shouldn’t be your potential career competitor. Often it is best to have someone outside of your unit or even organisation, someone who has had comparable business experience, and who is her- or himself interested in developing their leadership skills. Together with this person you could explore your leadership philosophy, discuss the feedback you received, plan possible experimental steps, and evaluate their outcomes – all in the safety of a confidential discussion with a trusted partner.