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Stepping it Up: Getting Ready for Your First Leadership Role

Steve is a high-potential analyst in his hospital’s finance department and interested in stepping into this first leadership role. He was selected for a high potentials leadership program I was facilitating, including 360-degree assessment and executive coaching. With the awareness he gained from the assessment, Steve made great gains in enhancing his performance and addressing the feedback issues. He felt ready for a promotion to a leadership role. However, when I asked Steve what he would say in an interview to promote what kind of leader he wanted to be or his vision for a leadership role, his eyes glazed over.

What can high-potential future leaders do to set the stage for promotion into their first leadership job? Two things stand out: identify their leadership platform and vision. 

Leadership Platform
A leadership platform consists of clarity about your unique and authentic leadership practices and philosophies. Ideally, these practices are based on your core values. In doing so, you are better equipped to enhance trust with your team by demonstrating authenticity and genuineness.  

I recall working with a leader hired to into a large healthcare organization. One of the first things she did was to share her leader platform with her direct reports. Among the elements she identified:

  • The best ideas come from people doing the work.
  • Approach me with solutions, not problems.
  • Transparent communication about our successes and failures.
  • I hold myself accountable to the expectations I have of you.
  • We address conflict directly and openly.

So how can you identify your authentic leadership platform? Here are a few strategies:

  • Reflect on effective past leaders you worked for and identify explicit or implicit values they embodied in their leadership.
  • Interview two managers you admire to learn about their core values and how they embody them in their leadership practices. 
  • Consider your deepest core values, and they would be manifest in your leadership practices. 

Leadership Vision

The other element - a leadership vision - is an essential ingredient for any current or future leader. It represents your true north in describing the future you want to create and the strategies you will use to create it. One of the key factors that distinguish a manager from a leader is an authentic vision anchored in one’s sense of purpose and values.

After multiple revisions over the past five years, my leadership vision consists of: Transforming healthcare by developing transformational and resilient healthcare leaders through coaching, training, and mentoring. 

One nurse leader I coached identified her vision: Facilitate collaborative interdisciplinary relationships that result in lower cost and higher quality healthcare for lower-income patients. 

A well-constructed vision contains several elements, including your purpose, the future state of what you want to create, and your unique approach to attaining it. Action verbs are essential!

A great way to formulate your vision is to anchor it in peak professional or volunteer experiences:

  • Identify three experiences where you felt a high impact, alive, and engaged; debrief the experiences to identify your impact and the unique skills or strategies you used.
  • Reflect on issues or challenges that trigger anger and frustration in you; these may be great indicators of the kinds of challenges that will inform your vision.
  • Ask four trusted colleagues the following: What are the situations when I am at my very best? 

Successfully advancing into your first leadership role is a combination of timing, sponsorship, having the right skills and experience, as well as demonstrating leadership potential. By proactively clarifying your leadership platform and vision, you will be better positioned to leap from individual contributor to leader. 

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Dr. Kevin Nourse has more than 25 years of experience developing transformational change leaders in healthcare and other sectors. He is the founder of Nourse Leadership Strategies, a coaching and leadership development firm based in Southern California. For more information, contact Kevin at 310.715.8315 or info@nourseleadership.com.

(c) 2021 Kevin Nourse 

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