Are you ready to lead?

Are You Ready to Lead?

by Lourdes Coss, MPA, CPPO


You entered the noble profession of public procurement helping others fulfill their mission… Often working your magic behind the scenes. Once in a while… a thank you from the end user (a reason to celebrate if you ever hear it) comes your way…   And… boy... oh… boy!  That rare expression of gratitude makes your day…maybe your week! What do you do? What else… start cranking up those contracts and POs like there’s no tomorrow.  Someone just recognized your hard work … your contribution to the team… and to the bottom line…  Now walking proudly… perhaps bordering on cloud nine… you start daydreaming about your career taking off.

Doing what you like to do and learning new things about all the different and interesting projects assigned to you, it’s easy to think:  “my boss must like me… look at all the cool things I get to do… and all the people I get to meet… Why?  Well, I’m the “go to person” …the star of the show! That’s right. I must be the top performer.” As you daydream on the possibilities in your career…the chances of obtaining that promotion is looking better and better each day.  All of the hard work and dedication is finally paying off. Yes, luckily there was a retirement in your office.  There is a management position and no one deserves it more than you do.  After all..  you are the star!  The daydreaming has become so real that your heart beats noticeably faster when you see the boss talking with the HR person! You finally hear the most anticipated words. Congratulations, you….blah…blah.. promotion to manager.  Hooray! The stars aligned and they are pointing up! 

Monday morning you arrive with a bag or two full of knickknacks to decorate your new office. It’s no longer a cubicle with pictures taped to the metal border of your prefab wall… no sir… there are nails on real walls where you can finally properly display your certification… the reward for your sweat and tears that went into achieving this position.   You are a certified procurement professional!  That’s right! And everyone gets to see it, as it will be prominently displayed in your new office “with a door”.  Having decorated your office, you’re now ready for the meeting scheduled with your supervisor at 11:00 am.  How considerate! You even had time to settle in. 

At the meeting with your supervisor, he goes over your new responsibilities.  New pen, new notebook, you are taking copious notes as your supervisor lists not only the projects, but also the personnel responsibilities. Yes, performance challenges with your team, two team members to be exact.  One was your competition for the job and the other has been busy applying for other jobs outside of the agency. In addition, you have inherited delays in one employee’s projects, which is now your problem.  The meeting ends with your feeling confident that you can take care of these issues.  After all, these are your buddies.  They’re on your team and now you’re their leader.

Well… not so fast! You got the job that your co-worker, Bill, wanted and the second person, Mary (a millennial), is no longer interested in the organization or else she would not be looking for another job.  So… that first meeting with your staff didn’t turn out the way you expected.  You are no longer thier lunch buddy or cubicle neighbor… you’re their boss.  

After a few end user calls following up on delayed projects caused by your team, an apparent morale issue, and your performance as their new leader at stake, you start seeking out help from your peers… You probably met them at the NIGP Forum! Unbudgeted personal development and resources start making a mark on your finances. In the meantime, you’re taking on more and more work to keep the ship afloat.  Your team is not performing and someone has to do the work.  You start feeling dissatisfied with your job situation despite all the support from your peers.   

No longer the star of the show and not feeling equipped to handle your new role, you second-guess yourself for going after the promotion and realizing that the position was not as glamorous as you thought.  As you comb through books and leadership material, you realize then that being a leader is not about being served, but about serving others.  It is about helping others succeed.  When those whom you lead feel that they are successful, they inevitably contribute to your success as a leader.  You discover that it is not about you, but about everyone else—successful leaders know this.

Successful leaders value their team and that value comes back two-fold.  How?  Well, I’m glad you asked!  When people are valued and trusted to perform, they tend to work harder at earning the respect as a professional and valuable contributor to the team.  The respect developed from this higher level of performance helps develop trust.  This new gained trust helps instill confidence and fellowship. This trust helps increase your level of influence and influence is leadership. 

So… how do you apply this lesson?  Where do you start to become a good leader? Find a mirror, yes, a mirror.  That’s the place to start.  One cannot lead others until one is able to lead oneself.  An honest self-assessment of your positive and not so positive qualities is a good place to start.  Your task is to improve in some areas and continue to develop in others.  That’s right; build your path to continued growth and development.

As you work to develop in different areas each day, let’s focus on three essential areas: character, knowledge, and relationships.  Possessing a solid character built on integrity, fairness and ethical behavior is foundational to achieving the level of influence to lead others.  This trait will help generate trust, which is fundamental to increasing your influence. Second, knowledge is essential as it is continuous learning and development.  Seek to understand the “why”.  When we understand the why, problem solving becomes a more logical exercise as opposed to a game of darts. Not everyone may agree with your decisions, but you’ll have their respect for your subject matter expertise.  A third key ingredient to get you started is connecting.  I don’t mean communicating, although that’s part of it.  I mean connecting with people at a more personal level.  When people know that you care, that you have an interest in them as a person and you respect their views, interests, goals, and life concerns; they will partner with you. Taking interest in people and helping them achieve their goals will help create an environment of abundance where everyone who wants to succeed has the opportunity to do so. They will follow because they want to not because they have to!  Then, if you help others become leaders … you’ll experience leadership at its best!  

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