Leadership. It’s a buzzword we’re all used to seeing in job descriptions, on resumes and performance reviews and just about everywhere else in the workplace.
It’s used so commonly that we often gloss over it and assume that, as long as it’s mentioned somewhere on our resume or in a cover letter, we’ve got our bases covered. But what happens when an employer asks what leadership means to you? What does a leader look like? Why is it important? And how do you fit into all of this? Suddenly the term becomes more ambiguous.
We often define leadership as the action of leading others; however it’s much more valuable to approach leadership as a consistently evolving trait, or way of behaving. Consider thinking about leadership based on the traits a leader should have. A recent poll* of top executives in the US found that the “four C’s” were the most frequently reported skills that young professionals are currently lacking in business environments. Critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration are traits that are essential to leadership. Abilities such as looking at issues from innovative and creative angles, effectively conveying ideas and thoughts in a productive manner and having the ability to work effectively in team environments are the leadership traits these executives are referring to. Developing these skills should be a central element to every young professional’s career development plan (you have one of those, don’t you?).
These traits are the backbone to highly effective leadership; but it doesn’t stop there. The four C’s show us what traits a leader should have, but the real action of leading is eliciting these traits in others; demonstrating leadership that produces the desire to lead in others. This type of inspirational leadership isn’t achieved through a line in a resume; it’s attained through the constant development of these pragmatic skills and a sense of engagement and enthusiasm in what you do. Take control of your leadership skills by implementing and maintaining a professional development program tailored to your interests and skill set. For the tools to get started, check out the Canisius Center for Professional Development’s website.
*2012 Critical Skills Survey, AMA, December 2012
By: Brynne Harrison, Canisius CPD