Your Leadership Edge: Why and How to Find It


Your Leadership Edge: To Move Up, Stand Out

In a recent survey of working adults conducted by Accenture, 68 percent of the women thought it took hard work and long hours to advance in a company. The result often leaves women feeling burned out and resentful for the lack of appreciation for their efforts.

In reality, people don’t advance into top positions just because they work harder and give up their lives for the company. They earn the positions based on how they stand out. They are acknowledged for their personal contributions such as persistence, the ability to connect with people easily and risk-taking.

What makes you different from the other people who work hard? You have to acknowledge your value first. Then demonstrate these characteristics as often as possible so people get to know you by this “brand.”

Acknowledge Your Value – Your Leadership Edge

A comment I frequently hear in my leadership interviews is, “She is valued more by senior management than she values herself.”

In my own career, I survived many layoffs and zig zagged up the corporate ladder taking on greater and more interesting challenges each time I moved. I learned early on that self-promotion is not bragging. Flaunting my unique core talents (what I give beyond my skills and knowledge) helped management determine how best to use me.

When I ask my female executive clients to identify what they contribute beyond their skills and knowledge, they act as if I’m speaking another language. They are able to tell me what they have accomplished, but they struggle articulating what traits they possess that helped drive their success. These women hold top leadership positions. They possess special and critical traits that qualified them for their roles. Yet they become totally helpless when I ask them to tell me what makes them special.

From my experiences, some traits women tend to stand out for:

1. Bringing a more comprehensive and long-term perspective to the table

2. Providing a deep sense of how systems and people interconnect in the organization

3. Embracing the value of diverse people and ideas

4. Reading non-verbal and emotional cues

Do any of these traits characterize your contributions? What else do you call forth that helps you move forward at work and in your life? What can you develop that will make you stand out? What do you have a passion for that could put you on the short list for stimulating projects and advancement? What makes you indispensable?

How to Find Your Leadership Edge

If you aren’t sure, here is an exercise to help you articulate your worth to your organization and your unique leadership edge:

Describe a peak experience where you felt fully alive and excited about your work. This could be while you were working on something, or at the end of a project or challenging situation. What five things did you contribute to creating this peak experience beyond your work knowledge and skills (personal strengths, gifts, talents, emotions, attitudes, values, unique sense or perspective)?

If you still struggle with filling out your list, keep a success journal. Whenever you do something well, ask yourself what special insight, values or traits you conjured forth to get the results. When someone tells you, “You did a great job,” don’t just say, “It was nothing.” Ask them what specifically they thought you did. Let others help you identify your special contributions.

Do you want to take control of your career? Discover what makes you stand out and be proud of yourself for being a show off.

These characteristics are your unique advantage. They are your leadership edge.

Author: Marcia Reynolds. Originally posted as a Guest post for 3Plus International

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