| APRIL 2021 |


How do i get promoted to leadership?

Behind the scenes


One thing I have seen clearly in my years as a Recruitment Manager in a recruitment agency, as an HR Manager and as a Career Development Expert is that potential leaders actively pursue leadership opportunities. They don’t wait for a title and then start on the responsibilities, it’s quite the reverse, they start assuming the responsibilities and then get given the title. This can be confusing for less experienced employees as there is a fine line between being proactive and being seem as assumptive or overstepping the mark into areas that are not within their job description.


When considering moving into a leadership role it is important to look at the likelihood of an internal promotion being available. There can sometimes be a ‘critical period’ in which promotions happen at particular levels of experience. This is especially so in more traditional careers such as in private practice in Law or Accounting.

Exploring internal promotions involves both looking at what opportunities are available, and just as important, how likely it is that senior Managers see you as a possible option for those opportunities. While not always the best way to assess leadership potential the reality is that a lot of companies look at high performers for who to promote. If there is a performance reward system in your company such as rewards, incentives, bonuses ensure that you are focused on actively working towards these.

Start by investigating if there are current / pending leadership opportunities within your team, other teams in your area, other departments, or by relocation / secondment within your company; this can be done on an intranet or through your HR department in larger companies, and simply by hearing about job vacancies and seeing where other employees get promoted in smaller companies.

It is helpful to ask, ‘How can I go about applying for, or requesting consideration for, a leadership role?’ to your Line Manager or HR Manager. Make sure that key management staff know about your desire to develop into a leadership role. Obviously, this is best done discreetly perhaps asking for a quiet word or by bringing it up in a performance appraisal.

“Ultimately demonstrating your vision to help, teach, inspire, develop and support others will attract attention and put a spotlight on your desire to lead.”

An important point to clarify is if a leadership opportunity becomes available because someone has resigned, or been promoted, or the company has grown, or if it is based on your performance. If seeking leadership is about waiting for a vacancy look at how often vacancies come up and if your employer tends to promote from within or hire externally.

In sales or business development orientated departments leadership opportunities are more often about the person having achieved certain financial goals. If this is the case speak to your Manager (or the relevant Manager) about specific time frames and milestones. Try to ensure that these agreements are in writing that there are defined measurable KPIs in place and that you are receiving feedback on your progression towards them. Often the level of detail given by the company reflects their intentions – the more detailed the information provided to you the better position you are in. Take advantage of any leadership, mentoring or professional development programs that are on offer. Don’t just look at leadership, often it can be soft skills or business development skills that can position you just as well.

Be sure to document your activities and achievements specific to development and achievement and consider how you can communicate what you are doing to a decision maker. A performance review is the best way to do this but if your company doesn’t have these in place it can be worth asking for a one-on-one meeting with your Manager.

Another way to demonstrate your potential is by volunteering to lead projects, social events, mentorship, training, or assisting with aspects of the company outside the scope of your role.

Ultimately demonstrating your vision to help, teach, inspire, develop and support others will attract attention and put a spotlight on your desire to lead.