Client Question: “I want to advance my career, but can I do that without being a leader of a team?”
Leading a team is not for everyone. In many organizations there is an assumption that it is the only way to advance, so people head in that direction. Here are a few things to consider:
First, you should validate your assumption that being a people leader is the only way to advance. You will need to do a little bit of research. Have some conversations with your manager, mentors and peers to help you understand what possibilities exist within your organization to advance. Look at the job postings in your function or in others to see the types of jobs that are available. Talk to the HR lead for your area to see if there is any formalized career path information. Depending on the size of your organization, this type of information may or may not exist. This is where the conversations can be helpful to see what the expectations are, even if they aren’t written down.
Next, you need to determine for yourself if being a people leader is something that you would be good at and that you passion to do. Usually, a really successful individual contributor is the person who is chosen to be promoted to a people leader. However, being good at leading something individually doesn’t always translate to that same success when you lead people. The leader is the face of the company to a team It requires different skill sets such as: delegating, influencing, motivating, developing, communicating and being strategic to name a few examples. Some people may have these skills naturally and will continue to refine them. For others, it may take a lot of time and effort to build them. Are you willing to put in the effort? Talk to other leaders of people and see what they deal with on a day to day basis. Listen to your gut during these conversations. Do you feel excited and you can see yourself in the role? Or the thought of it makes you feel ill and stressed out just thinking about it?
There is no crystal ball that will tell you everything, but you can use what you have learned to come to a more educated answer. Being a people leader isn’t for everyone and it is okay if it isn’t for you. You may reach a ceiling of how high you can progress in your current organization without leading a team, but there are many other paths to pursue that don’t require people leadership. You just need to find yours.
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