I’m keen to shed light on a potential way forward for mid-levels who may be confused.
Typical career advice is as follows:
|On the one hand…||On the other hand…|
|Develop your own style and be authentic||Tune into the styles of others and adapt|
|Develop a specialism, become a ‘go to’ person for something||Know more about the wider firm, broaden your outlook|
|Step up to the plate and take ownership for your work product||Don’t be too controlling and delegate work to others|
|Be more confident and speak up||Be open to learning and be humble|
I’m sorry to say that I think such advice is correct (even if not that helpful!). It clearly isn’t easy to find the balance in these apparent contradictions. My suggested steps are to:
- Observe how your more senior people do it. Look at their demeanour and notice their language.
- Keep a little black book to capture your observations and reflections.
- You will of course find senior people not getting it right! You can learn from that as well!
- Decide which element of leadership you particularly want to work on (eg developing a specialism, delegating/supervising more etc).
- Find opportunities to practise and seek feedback on how you’re doing.
- Attempt foothills rather than tackle Everest!
- When in challenging situations, capture your thoughts and feelings in that little black book to help analyse what might be holding you back.
- When reviewing your performance, focus on the positives. Ask yourself, ‘What did I do well?’ and ‘What could I have done differently?’
- Whether your firm has a mentoring scheme or not, try to work with the senior people who will offer you the support, challenge and feedback you need.
A leadership mindset (with the concomitant behaviours and skills) doesn’t appear overnight. Don’t beat yourself up if this takes time and you have setbacks. Three steps forward and two steps back is still progress!