Taking advantage of opportunities that will help you develop your leadership skill set is one of the most advantageous career strategies you can adopt. Letitia Nall, vice president of operations for the Cleveland Northeast Ohio Chapter of the National Black MBA Association (NBMBA), recently organized and facilitated a local NBMBA event that included an executive panel and networking session with the primary focus being the journey to senior leadership.
The featured corporate executive and motivational speaker at the event was Keith Wyche, who shared tips on how to develop a personal path to senior leadership. As the author of Good is Not Good Enough: And Other Unwritten Rules for Minority Professionals, Wyche has been honored and is widely known for his unique ability to empower young minority business professionals with inspiration and strategies that will help them climb the competitive executive ladder. In his book he openly shares practical, yet powerful lessons learned from his enlightened senior leadership journey at Fortune 500 companies.
If you want to reduce your obstacles and fast-track your senior leadership success, here are the five things Wyche shared that will help aspiring minority leaders reach the top:
1. Throw away the entitlement attitude: From Wyche’s experience as a corporate executive, too many millennial professionals feel because they have a college degree they are entitled to success and easy career acceleration. This is a deadly misunderstanding. You can’t sit back and hope or expect for your boss to advance you. Instead, you have to become proactive about your leadership development and career acceleration. You must actively seek mentorships and leadership development opportunities that will elevate you to a higher level as a young professional.
2. Don’t fall into the instant gratification trap: Many millennial professionals want to become highly successful overnight due to their desire for instant gratification, Wyche says. However, they often underestimate the notion of competition. Frequently, young careerists fail to realize that the job market and workplace are fiercely competitive spaces. Wyche recommends you “know and understand the level of competition you face so you can work hard to rise above it.” One of the most effective ways of doing this is by persistently working hard over a long period of time. If you are indeed a consistent top performer, you will get noticed and become known as a rising leader.
3. Quantify your successes — It’s not enough for you to simply be a top performer. “You must be a top performer while producing quantifiable results that are based on strong metrics,” says Wyche. If you fail to achieve quantifiable goals, it will be extremely difficult for you to show the true value that you bring to your company.
4. Increase your exposure: A common misunderstanding about corporate and organizational exposure is that you have to just be visible in order to advance, but this is not the essence of exposure. Wyche takes this a step further by encouraging professionals to, “expose themselves to the right people and information.” It’s vital for you to have a champion in your corner within your industry that’s going to help you navigate your leadership journey. Having a champion is integral because it will be very hard for you to increase your exposure and break through any glass ceiling alone. You must also read the latest business books and articles to stay current with industry knowledge and information to stand out from your peers.
5. Protect your brand and image. If you want to become an executive, “you must begin developing your executive presence now,” Wyche says. You have to figure out both the good and bad things people are saying about you. Strengthen the good things and try to resolve and overcome any negative perceptions professionals have about you to protect your brand.
Antoine Moss, Ph.D., (@2PositiveTweets) is a nationally recognized resource on internships, early career achievement, leadership and motivation. CEO and founder of CEO Style Consulting L.L.C., Moss empowers professionals and organizations to reach their full potential, and serves as speaker, workshop instructor and consultant. The author of Learn to Intern CEO Style, Moss has been a featured expert on outlets including Fox 8 TV News and George Fraser’s 2011 Power Networking Conference.