How Can Leaders Advance Their Careers in Lockdown?

How can you make the most of this period in lockdown to develop skills that can advance your future career?

Nadine Smart, Head of Consulting at leadership specialist Cirrus, highlights five things you can do today which will set you up for success tomorrow.

The way you lead now will be part of your legacy. Do it well, and you will be positively positioned for future roles. Now is the time to step forward, be a role model, take accountability, and demonstrate great leadership.

The development opportunities during times of crisis are immense. There is a great deal we can learn when we are under pressure. If you adopt a growth mindset, you can turn challenging situations to your advantage. Instead of thinking: “I can’t do that”, think: “I can’t do that…yet.” Leaders with a growth mindset tend to be open to learning from experience. They seek opportunities to improve and believe that their existing skills can be developed, and new capabilities can be acquired. Those with a more fixed mindset are less open to such possibilities. They are more likely to feel that they have reached their peak in one area, or that they are unable to learn anything new.

With that in mind, here are five things you can do to advance your own career during lockdown:

  1. Develop your leadership agilities. Successful transition into a new leadership position requires you to develop different agilities. The skills that have helped you get to where you are now will not necessarily help you progress in the future. Do a self-audit (and ask for feedback to test this) to identify areas where you can develop. Use your current opportunities to challenge yourself and improve the following leadership agilities:
  • Strategic agility: How capable are you in dealing with this VUCA world? Can you make big connections between evolving scenarios and create a well-considered, purposeful strategy for others to follow? Develop your strategic awareness by learning about macro and micro trends, new ideas from different industries, and biographies of great strategists. In challenging times, leaders who stand out are decisive and focused on core priorities.
  • Emotional agility: How self-aware are you? Can you understand, empathise and relate to others’ emotions and use this emotional intelligence to build collaborations, partnerships and relationships? Effective leaders communicate the organisation’s core purpose with emotion-based storytelling and engage people with vision and passion. High potential leaders enable their own career progression by developing the talent and succession behind them, so they have room to move forward. Whilst you might be tempted to demonstrate your value by taking more control and driving through results, the long-term benefit of enabling and empowering your team to achieve and stretch their own capabilities will be more beneficial to your company and your career.
  • Learning and drive agilities. Do you display curiosity about the world around you? Effective future leaders show a real hunger to learn new skills, to really understand how things work in different areas of your business and are passionate about turning these insights into effective results for your organisation.

Use the opportunities open to you right now to develop. Be aware of how you are leading significant change and disruption, managing your emotions, drawing on your resilience, and exercising flexibility to new demands. The current crisis calls for these skills more than ever. Consider how you could be approaching situations more effectively, with more empathy, more collaboration and greater clarity. Keep track of the skills you are developing, reflect on these and consider ways to further improve. Think about how you can use these new skills to better effect when ‘normality’ begins to return. Document your progress as examples for your CV. Think about how you can describe them when you interview for your next position.

  1. Upgrade your critical skill sets and knowledge. In addition to leadership agilities, there are core skill sets that are vital for success in the future world of work. These include digital awareness, virtual team leadership, communication (languages, storytelling and the art of conversation and influence), coaching and managing performance. There are many easily accessible resources either within or outside your organisation to enable you to develop these skill sets. Challenge yourself to learn a new skill to help position your future self in the best way possible for evolving roles.
  2. Connect and network. Don’t neglect your networks. Use social media to build your leadership presence. Stay connected to your key contacts to show you support them. The more they hear from you, in a constructive way, the more they will remember you when the next opportunity opens. Keep your CV updated with your new experiences and the new skills you are developing.
  3. Focus on you. Building good working habits now will stand you in good stead for future roles. Consider how you organise your time, how you build your networks, set and plan to achieve goals, and manage your work-life balance. Take the time now to tweak and develop your daily habits.
  4. Plan ahead. It is easy to focus on the here and now and react to your immediate situation. However, you can gain some control back by thinking ahead to how you want your team and function to work in the future. Outline your vision, set your priorities and goals, and build the foundations now to enhance your future career opportunities.

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