Bridge over ocean
1 November 2013 CFA Institute Journal Review

Act Like a Leader Before You Are One (Digest Summary)

  1. Marla Howard, CFA

Preparation for, and advancement to, leadership positions demands a number of key traits and attributes. The author provides examples of leadership skills for those en route to top management.

What’s Inside?

The author reviews recommendations provided by experts on how to develop and demonstrate leadership skills.

How Is the Article Useful to Practitioners?

The author summarizes suggestions for communicating your potential as a leader. The first step is to take care of your current responsibilities and avoid any chance for criticism about your performance. The next thing is to help your boss be successful. For example, discover what preoccupies your supervisor and make suggestions to ease his or her burden. To further your leadership development, volunteer for leadership roles in your personal activities as well as professional life. Take on simple tasks, such as facilitating meetings, mediating conflict, and helping with recruiting efforts. Identify and assume tasks that others may be unaware of or unwilling to accept. For example, seize opportunities to estimate costs for proposals or identify a customer need and propose possible solutions.

Throughout your development, show modesty and “humble confidence.” It is important to avoid exercising authority that you do not have. If your manager is trusted and not threatened by your ambition, discuss your accomplishments and aspirations with him or her in a way that shows you are a team player who wants to contribute to the organization. Mentors are a key element, so find, observe, communicate with, work with, and emulate successful people while remaining true to yourself. Finally, build relationships with people at all levels of the organization. Be prepared for an unplanned conversation with someone in a senior position; it may be your chance to demonstrate your knowledge of the business and your value to the firm.

The author offers several examples of executives who practiced these guidelines before becoming top managers.

Abstractor’s Viewpoint

The author provides an important reminder that to advance into leadership positions, you must do an outstanding job in your current position and then cultivate and exhibit the traits for leadership in both professional and non-professional activities. Leadership traits can come from a conscious effort that is managed by the individual and must include not being perceived as self-serving.

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