3 Steps to Becoming the Boss

In my new book, Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders, my goal is to combine the best of yesterday’s leadership advice with up-to-the-minute tips from today’s management trenches. With more Millennials stepping up into leadership positions every day, this topic is becoming essential to the present and future success of most every organization.

I like to define the word leader quite broadly, as someone who has influence over others, with or without formal authority. Even if you don’t yet have anyone reporting to you, or you work alone, or you’re a student, or you’re a stay-at-home parent — in my opinion you have every right to call yourself a leader. More than anything else, I believe leadership begins on the inside with the way you approach the world and your desire to make a difference.

Whether you’re in an official leadership position now or plan to be in one soon, consider this overview of my three overarching strategies for becoming a great boss:

1. Learn

How well you’re capable of leading other people begins with how well you lead yourself. You may be surprised by how far you’ll read in Becoming the Boss before I start talking about managing other people. This is because you will be a far better leader of others if you spend time building your own knowledge, mindset and attitude first. This means regularly assessing your knowledge and skillset, and taking action to build on your strengths and improve on your weak spots.

2. Lead

While being a great employee is likely what got you promoted, being a manager is a totally different position that requires a different skillset and a different mind-set. There will be times as a new leader when you’ll have to do things you’re not yet good at (or have never done before), such as delegating responsibility, interviewing and hiring, or even demoting or firing.

So how do you become a great leader from day one?

You don’t.

You’ll have natural strengths and strong instincts to leverage (such as giving great motivational pep talks or showing compassion for people’s mistakes), but you simply can’t excel at every nuance of management when you’ve never had experience doing it. And that’s perfectly OK. Leadership means doing the very best you can every day, learning from your mistakes, and correcting bit by bit from there.

3. Last

I’ve found that when leaders, particularly new ones, become overwhelmed by their responsibilities (or simply overworked), they tend to lose sight of their own career and personal development. For previous generations of leaders this was probably OK; you could simply do your job and tread water for a while before preparing for your next big career step. But that’s not an option anymore.

In our fast-changing times, you need to continually focus on your own development as well. I don’t necessarily mean changing jobs or career paths every few years, or that you need to be constantly charging ahead at a million miles an hour. I think of career movement today as being more like software releases: some are big and bold (and require a total reboot), and others are just slight bug fixes or fine-tuning.

My goal is for you to continually thrive in these ever-evolving times while still maintaining your sanity and sense of purpose. Leadership is most definitely a marathon and not a sprint.

My new book has more practical advice to guide you through each of these steps. Preeorder your copy now.

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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