If you think being a C-level leader is in your future, chances are you are already thinking and working toward being ready if an opportunity arises. This article can help you approach that process with greater self-awareness and intention. I chose these words carefully for the impact they can make on preparing to move into a C-level position. Self-awareness is the ability to objectively see our character and understand underlying feelings, motives, and desires. In can be an important factor in your ability to confidently move forward toward a leadership role. Moving with intention provides important opportunities to envision and take positive steps toward being ready for a leadership role.
Do you understand WHY you want a leadership position and WHAT you will do with the opportunity? If you haven’t taken the time to truly think this through, you should! Leadership is about vision and leaders are often seen as influencers. A leadership role is an amazing opportunity to do something remarkable. What is drawing you toward that new level or position? What institutional problem or opportunity are you eager to work on? What do you want to contribute that you can’t contribute in your current role? Take the time to dream, understand your own pull toward leadership, and create your vision.
It’s important to consider your durable skills and how well they match the needs of a leadership role. A strong foundation in emotional intelligence and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is critical for successful leadership. Have you created a significant track record of achievements that also happen to feature inclusion, collaboration, and flexibility? Are you able to communicate clearly using the institutional language? We are all always on our journey to improve our durable leadership skills. One of the best intentional steps is to find mentors to help you on this journey, and having made some progress, to then help others along by being a mentor. While having one or more mentors can help you with feedback in multiple areas, being a mentor can also sharpen skills such as listening and seeing things from diverse perspectives. Having a mentor and being a mentor are two intentional steps toward leadership.
We prepare for new roles while in our current role. The only way to move toward a new role is to grow toward it, and out of, or beyond, our current role. Sometimes this happens naturally, but not always. You may need to consciously consider what you can do to stretch beyond your current role. One of the best steps you can take is to do your job well and be willing to volunteer beyond your scope. This may mean taking on something for your direct supervisor or helping to fill a gap in an area that allows you to gain new experience. If opportunities aren’t naturally coming to you, be brave enough to ask, show your willingness, and be prepared to follow through when opportunities come your way.
Institutional task forces, committees, and interest groups can be a great source for leadership opportunities. Where does your institution need help? Working beyond your department will help you to gain important institutional perspectives. Often similar opportunities exist in regional or national organizations. Look for opportunities that will help you build both skills and a network. Volunteering in professional organizations is a rewarding way to grow, pay it forward, and mind the trail behind you.
In your journey toward C-level leadership be on the lookout for opportunities to:
- Improve work and relationships between IT and campus
- Support and mentor IT team members and other campus colleagues
- Provide campus technology strategy and solve issues at the institutional level
- Provide leadership on campus committees, strategic initiatives, and Board level reporting
Take a few minutes to reflect on your self-awareness and intention. What are you doing to be ready and what more could you be doing?
This post was authored by Vice President Cathy Bates, who advises clients on technology strategic planning, information security, and initiatives that transform institutional academic, administrative, and research capabilities. A former CIO, Cathy speaks and writes frequently about how to build and sustain effective organizations and programs. Connect with Cathy via Twitter and LinkedIn.