How to Know if You Are Ready for A Leadership Role

At some point—if you view your work as a "career," not a "job"—you’ll get the itch for a new challenge. If your work feels tired or you’re on autopilot, you might find yourself wanting to climb the career ladder and move into a more senior role. But how can you prove you're ready for more responsibility? The answers to the following questions will help you reflect on your progress—and develop thoughtful answers to the types of questions asked of candidates for senior leadership positions.

Do you listen to and reflect on others' feedback?

Strong senior leaders listen more than they speak. They’re always collecting data, whether qualitative or quantitative, and using that data to inform their next move. A solid sign of a potential senior leader is someone who recognizes how much they can learn from the people around them. A strong leader also knows how important it is to listen to employees in order to acquire buy-in. Remember: People support what they help create.

Can you visualize the path to a solution—and take that path to conclusion? 

It's easy to poke holes in something; it's hard to propose and carry out solutions. But that type of solution-focused thinking is a sign of the maturity and foresight necessary for a more senior role.

Do people come to you for answers?

When your colleagues have questions about their work, do they seek you out for assistance—or are you the one asking the questions? When you move into a leadership position, your role shifts from doer to champion of the doers. Your priority is no longer getting the job done; it's removing obstacles so your reports can get the job done. (And that's not a skill in everyone's wheelhouse.)

Do you reflect on lessons learned?

When you’ve finished a project, do you move on to the next without another thought—or do you spend time reflecting on what could have gone better? If you find yourself fascinated by improving and streamlining processes, you're likely to be successful in a leadership role.

Do you speak up in a professional manner?

When you're in a senior role, you're expected to have opinions and share them—respectfully and professionally. You need to be perceived as well-spoken and present yourself as someone desirable to represent your employer.

Are you calm under pressure?

At some point, something is going to go wrong. That's the reality of work. What will your reaction be? A staffer might freak out or require someone to provide direction. A leader stays calm and provides the directions.

Have you mastered your current role?

Are you good at what you do now, and do your colleagues regard you in that way? This can be a tough question to answer, but it's easier to have the respect of your direct reports if they know you were good at executing when it was your job to execute.

Are you willing to go the extra mile?

Being a senior leader isn't a 9-to-5 job. It means being available on nights and weekends and filling in when you're shorthanded. Have you demonstrated you're willing put in the effort necessary to get the job done?

Do you stand up for what's right, even when it's hard?

As a corporate value, "integrity" can almost feel obvious, but part of being a leader is doing what's right even when the going gets tough. It's not easy to break bad news to employees or discipline them when policies and performance goals aren't being met. But if you're going to take on a senior role, you have to be prepared to do what's right for the company, even if it's not the easiest path. Remember, an invisible line is drawn the day you are promoted. Sometimes it will feel lonely.

The title and paycheck of a senior leadership role will always sound appealing, but the work behind the scenes isn't easy. You'll know in your gut when you're ready, and so will the decision makers.

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