I have always said, “You do not need to be a manager or senior executive to be a leader. Every executive assistant and administrator can be a leader and should be a leader.” Leadership is often defined as a set of characteristics such as being ambitious, broad-minded, dependable, forward-looking, intelligent, mature, and honest.
Kouzes and Psoner provides 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership™:
1. Challenging the Process
2. Inspiring a Shared Vision
3. Enabling Others to Act
4. Modeling the Way
5. Encouraging the Heart
You also have to practice being a leader and being confident communicating in front of a group, your executive, or when leading a team.
One thing that bugs me as a 22-year corporate trainer trying to instill confidence in administrative professionals is when I am teaching a class whereby I have assigned leaders for each table and they delegate their role to another person at their table instead of taking on the role themselves.
If this is you, this gives the perception that you are not willing to stretch, are shy (even if you are not), don’t have confidence (even if you do), lack good communication skills, are not flexible and adaptable, and lack responsibility.
So while you might be nervous speaking in front of your peers or other colleagues, it is imperative that you develop this skill. Assistants can longer back down or shy away from taking on a role or task because they are “nervous.” Granted you can be nervous but have the courage to take on the assignment or leadership role.
If you attend any training programs, classes or administrative conferences where you have been asked to be the leader or spokesperson, take on the assignment with a smile and confidence.
In the meantime, you should be working on your speaking skills because every day you are presenting yourself to the world. So while you might not be presenting at a podium, the skills you develop through formal speaking-skills practice, you gain confidence, know how to think on your feet and communicate the message you intend. I teach presentation skills in our Star Achievement Series® program for executive assistants. While each participant starts out feeling nervous about presenting in front of others, they are always thrilled at the end of class to see the confidence they have gained by pushing themselves through something that is quite uncomfortable. We grow by doing things we don’t necessarily like.
My main point is, do not delegate your leader role, especially not early in the day, course, or meeting. It really weakens your professional image.
For tips on confident communications, get a copy of my books, Become and Inner Circle Assistant or Underneath It All.
Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner have been working together for more than thirty years, studying leaders, researching leadership, conducting leadership development seminars, and serving as leaders themselves in various capacities. They are coauthors of the award-winning, best-selling book The Leadership Challenge.