Foundations of Leadership #2: Become an Expert in Something
I’ve never seen someone rise in an organization as fast as when they become an expert in something important to that organization. There something organic about leadership that occurs because an engineer is the subject-matter expert in a piece of scope that the rest of the organization is betting on strategically.
I’ve seen engineers be most successful at this when
- It’s a subject they are interested in.
- It’s something that’s important to the organization’s mission.
- They have the maturity and foresight to get ahead of the the project by studying, practicing, writing, and presenting articulately on it before anyone else.
Like all foundations of leadership, there is no shortcut to becoming an expert in something important — If there was, someone may have done it already! It takes hard work, focus, and dedication. Instead of looking for shortcuts, accept that the climb will be uphill but that you will be better for having done it, and look instead for best practices:
- Situational Awareness — Develop an awareness of your organization’s strategy — What important bets are upcoming? How does that match with your skillset? Do you have the time learn the new skills associated with the tasks?
- Focus — Set aside the time to focus on your subject matter. Set aside distractions and items of low strategic value until your focus time is over.
- Start Small — Expertise is a relative term. The task of coming up to speed on a new skill means only that you are better than your past self each time you learn something new.
- Mentors — Find a mentor who’s been there before. There’s a time for learning, and a time for practicing. No book or blog post can give you the combination of both that having a mentor-mentee relationship with an expert can.
- Mistakes — You will make plenty of them. Accept it, and when it happens dust yourself off and stand back up.
Read more foundations of leadership here.