Photograph via Getty Images
By Kathy Delaney
May 10, 2016

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you prepare for a management role? is written by Kathy Delaney, global chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness.

For most of us, excelling in our jobs means we aspire to leadership and management positions as we work our way up the ladder in the workplace – or at least we think we do. But for many people, these goals seem to be a default because a management position is commonly seen as the next step, rather than something that comes from a true desire to be a leader. The first step toward preparing for a management role is to ask yourself: Do you really want to manage and lead others?

If the answer to that question is no, there is absolutely no shame in that. Many of us work in positions that make good use of our talents, or the craft we worked hard and trained in. But the responsibilities that come with a promotion to a management role are often not what we signed up for. In the world of advertising, I have seen many great designers or writers climb the ranks to become creative directors or executives, only to feel like they’ve been promoted right out of doing the thing they love.

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At Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, we recognized this paradox. Of course we want to promote ambitious and talented people and compensate them accordingly – it’s the only way to retain top talent. But not all of our staff necessarily want to assume managerial positions. Often their talents are better utilized in other kinds of positions. That’s why we created a “craft track,” which recognizes the creative output and hard work of our team members by giving them an alternative means of gaining raises and promotions, while still practicing their craft. They are able to further their career, without leaving their creative roles to become managers. While most companies don’t have specific programs of this nature, there’s nothing to say that those in a similar position can’t speak to their managers to discuss a path that increases responsibility without bringing management into the equation.

For others, management is their goal, and that’s great too. When you feel you’re ready to make the leap, it’s important to explore your own intentions, and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Ask yourself what leadership means to you. The best leaders are those who realize it’s not all about them, and it’s definitely not just about a bigger paycheck. It’s about motivating your team and guiding their success. The pride and rewards of leadership don’t come from simply being the boss or from having the most experience, but come from inspiring your people and guiding them to create amazing ideas.

If you can get yourself thinking in that framework, you’re on your way to being prepared for management. No book, seminar, or training program will give you the empathy or desire you need to nurture your staff and your company. Much of what you need to know about management, you can only learn on the job. Every company and every team comes with its own unique set of challenges and conditions, and we often need to learn to navigate them in the moment. But as long as you come to the role with the right mindset and the intention to elevate your team and their work, you can succeed.

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