Recently I addressed a group of emerging leaders at a major company, and the management rightfully expected an amazing return on investing in professional development for them. These emerging leaders were hand-picked for their potential—eager for the work, super curious about getting better, and so coachable. They were fearless, with a “you’ve never arrived” mentality.
It’s one thing to have potential and another to deliver on it. In my experience coaching young business leaders, and representing emerging pro athletes and coaches, I know this: Those who achieve career success always nail these ABCs.
A — Appreciate the process.
Exceptional leaders are never done learning. They understand on a cellular level that success takes time. That’s a very hard concept to get our heads around in our world of instant messaging and data analytics at our fingertips.
No matter how much talent you have, a leader isn’t made in weeks, months, or even years. Recognize that it’s a process. Even phenomenal athletes need to learn how to not chase the first pitch every time. Discipline and intention take time to develop.
When we appreciate this reality, we dig into the intense, intentional work of nurturing trust in relationships and becoming 360-degree aware. We see leadership as a marathon. If you see this as a sprint, you’re going to burn out.
As the least patient person that I know, I need this reminder to stay in the now and perform against my personal mission. For those who follow college football, this means being more Saban-like and embracing the process. When a leader is done learning, they’re done leading, so appreciate the growth along the way.
B — Build Your Team.
There’s some truth that in our youth, we can be a bit self-absorbed since we don’t have as many life and career experiences to shape our perspective. That mentality can make it impossible to look past your own lens. And success depends on the leader’s vision.
While a leader must always keep an eye on results (product) and process, high achieving leaders know that people are even more important. Your relationships with your team, your influence on them, your choices in hiring—these will determine the success of your product and collective process.
In sports and business, talent is only one piece of the puzzle of building a team. It’s usually overrated, too. Great teammates know how to enjoy someone else’s success. They have ferocious work ethic and focus, and the guts to hold others accountable. A sense of humor also marks a great teammate.
Remember too that building a team means building up its individual members. Great leaders pay attention and listen. Success as a leader is never about you. It’s about them coming together and producing far more than they ever could individually.
C — Consistency is everything.
Everyone knows of a hotshot who came out of the blocks fast and failed to sustain that energy. That happens when you think that your best is behind you, because you’re not learning and staying open. The mindset of consistency and discipline is incredibly important to get you from “emerging” to “great.”
I met an emerging leader the other day in an unexpected place: my front doorway. He’s a college student who has built a successful pressure washing business in our area.
Besides providing good service, this student shows up each summer with an increasingly professional look. When he knocked on my door, he now had a uniform and hat with his company logo.
At the end of his work, I greeted him at the door to pay him. We struck up a conversation about his business dreams and before I knew it, 45 minutes went by. He was curious, he’s built a bit of a team of young pressure washers, now he needs to keep going. He told me how his business was borne from necessity, to pay his way through college. He described how he devours podcasts, books and anything he can to feed his insatiable curiosity about what makes a successful leader.
His consistency had made his pressure washing business into a six-figure income with very little overhead. I believe that if he stays open and connected to learning and growing, he will launch from an emerging leader to a leader worth following. It will require building on his base of consistency.
Your Game Changer Takeaway
Emerging leaders become great leaders when they appreciate the process, build their team and become consistent in their curiosity and desire for growth. High potential doesn’t guarantee career success, but mastering these ABCs will help emerging leaders make the most of talent—theirs and their team’s.
Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Her book, Fearless At Work, is available, and sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter.