New Leader Tuesday: Start Leading Before the Promotion

Image of a sign that reads: Under New Management

New Leader Tuesday at Management Excellence

In Monday’s Leadership Caffeine post, I strongly encouraged senior managers to accelerate the pace of their leadership development activities for their high potentials. Today, it’s your turn.

Quit waiting for the boss to bestow the mantle of leadership responsibility on you. It’s time for you to seek out opportunities that help you cultivate the critical communication, motivation and decision-making skills so critical to your development as a leader.

5 Ideas to Gain Leadership Experience Before the Title:

1. Volunteer to Lead Something. Anything. Seriously, whether it’s the planning committee for the holiday party or Summer picnic or an initiative that’s on the boss’s wish list, jump in with both feet and learn what it’s like to bring a project in on time, under budget and with great results.

2. Interview the Firm’s Leaders about their Leadership Experiences.  I enjoyed watching a newly minted college graduate who was set on quickly moving into a supervisory role, navigate her way through a series of interviews with the firm’s senior leaders. Her enthusiasm, great questions and interest in the challenges and experiences of people in positions of authority left a great  impression that certainly kept her front-of-mind for one of the next promotions.

3. Make a Project Manager a Mentor. This often under-appreciated role is filled with great professionals who achieve miracles with little direct authority over their resources. They build trust, motivate people who don’t work for them and facilitate the art and science of delivering initiatives. Shadow, observe and soak up the lessons!

4. Step into Sticky Situations on Your Team. I make it a habit of looking for those individuals who display the ability to bring calm and focus and who can promote progress in situations where everyone else is flailing or panicking. Be that person and you’ll be noticed.

5. Strive to Be a Great Follower. While perhaps counter-intuitive, striving to be a great follower for your boss helps you strengthen your understanding of the role of the leader. Personally, professionally and politically, it’s a great way to build your reputation and gain trust from your boss.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

While I’ll work on prodding the boss along to create and implement an aggressive leadership development program to help you make that move into a role responsible for others, don’t wait for either of us. You own your career and you own your professional development. Set a brisk pace based on a deliberate plan of action and keep moving forward.

More Professional Development Reads from Art Petty:book cover: shows title Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development by Art Petty. Includes image of a coffee cup.

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For more ideas on professional development-one sound bite at a time, check out Art’s latest book: Leadership Caffeine-Ideas to Energize Your Professional Development.

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An ideal book for anyone starting out in leadership: Practical Lessons in Leadership by Art Petty and Rich Petro.



By | 2016-10-22T17:11:22+00:00 April 2nd, 2013|Career, Leadership|8 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. joyce davis April 4, 2013 at 10:48 am - Reply

    This is a great article. It speaks to how important it is for us to determine our path, to get involved in projects (legislation, research, proposals, seminars) that lead to the direction of our personal and professional goals. Sometimes it may involve working on inside or outside projects with or without pay to gain the recognition, the fulfillment, the credibility and notoriety and sometimes for the practice of perfecting the product. So often we wait on someone else such as the boss or current leaders to plan and to carve out a plan for us, as opposed to taking the lead and taking some of the strategic steps for ourselves. Skills gained can be used in our current workplace or enhance our skill set for promotion elsewhere. We have to own our personal development by becoming involved in projects and taking the lead and incorporating many of the suggestions of the article. Thank you, after reading this, it truly was affirmation and confirmation for me to put into practice what I need in my own personal desires and goals to achieve and succeed.

    • Art Petty April 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Joyce! Art

  2. Perry Ludy April 6, 2013 at 10:54 am - Reply

    Good article. Self-development towards leadership development is a lost art. On second thought, I am not sure that it ever was a major concept- wave for executives and junior executives. I would add…taking on difficult projects and assignments where additional leadership skills could be demonstrated. Or, taking on a new concept as disruptive innovation and/or smart new strategies into winning performance (HBR OnPoint) and introducing it to an organization… would also demonstrate the right approach.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. […] his leadership blog, Art Petty suggests that if you would like to be considered for a promotion,  you can start leading before […]

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  5. Pastor Precious April 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm - Reply

    Great article, it is an attitude to lead before you become a leader: Promotion comes through concious effort to becoming a leader. Leadership indeed is service.

  6. […] Start Leading Before the Promotion […]

  7. Amber King May 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    Great article! Thanks for the five ideas you’ve shared to gain leadership experiences before the promotion… Volunteering to lead is the first practice to become a great leader. You should know how to lead your group as well as yourself to become an effective leader.

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