I’m sure there are many young professionals out there like myself who have a passion and heart for leadership. While our eagerness and enthusiasm for leading isn’t accompanied with complementary positions of authority, we find solace in the fact that our ability to lead those around us does not depend on titles, six-figure salaries, or corner offices – it relies on our values, behaviors, and mindset. However, the desire to hold that position of authority in order to expand our influence as people leaders may be smoldering in our cores as we wait for the opportunity to present itself. But what are you doing to prepare? John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, said, “When opportunity comes, it is too late to prepare.” With that in mind, I’d like to share a quick mental exercise I developed for those professionals who aspire to be supervisors in their lines of work.
When you find yourself in a meeting or conversation with your colleagues or leaders that requires supervisory guidance, place yourself in the shoes of the person responsible for making the decision. While this currently isn’t your responsibility, it is never too early to begin thinking like a leader, and if we listen to John Wooden, it is absolutely necessary. I recommend mentally plotting the actions you’d take to address the current situation or dilemma you have observed. This presents a “win-win” situation: no risk, but great reward (for future self), and here’s why:
Simply conceptualizing your course of action is like working within a development environment: no harm, no foul. The most concrete thing you may do is jot down the actions you would take as the supervisor. And better yet, you will have the opportunity to assess your hypothetical decisions against the concrete actions of your leader.
When enough time has passed to see the outcomes of their decisions, ask yourself these questions:
💭 Did we have the same or different plan of attack? How so?
💭 Did their actions drive value for the team/organization?
💭 Did their decisions align to the values and principles of the organization?
💭 Would you still choose your original course of action? Why or why not?
💭 If the same opportunity presented itself, what would you do differently to yield greater return of investment for your people & mission?
Leadership is a beautiful and rewarding gift, but at times it is difficult, taxing, and gut-wrenching. Being responsible for the livelihood and wellbeing of your people is a responsibility not for the faint of heart. It would be a disservice to ourselves and our people if we approached leadership with a nonchalant or smug attitude. This exercise is just one tool we can employ to be intentional in our growth journeys as we prepare for the day when we receive the responsibility and title of a people leader.
Connor Xavios is a Senior Consultant at Federal Training Academy. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BS in Criminology, Law, and Society with a Minor in Intelligence Analysis from George Mason University; 5+ years experience with public and private sector building and uniting teams; significant expertise in planning and managing crises as a business resilience professional; currently driving integration of operational processes for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; John Maxwell Certified Coach, Speaker, Trainer; Certified Business Continuity Professional (Disaster Recovery Institute), and Member of the Fairfax County Emergency Response Team (CERT). Connor is currently pursuing his Master of Science in Leadership with a concentration in Government and Military Leadership from Norwich University.