Create your leadership niche: The how
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Similar to organizations, when leaders carve out a niche, they open themselves to new opportunities. As discussed in part one of this article, specializing allows us to further strengthen our skills, grow our expertise and refine our approach.
It also reinforces our position within the organization and our marketplace. Here are three ways we can create our leadership niche.
The first step to creating a niche is to mine our work history for skills and experiences that follow a pattern. Sometimes the easiest way to do this is to start with an interest list.
Do you like change? Are you a great project manager? Do you embrace challenges? Have you enjoyed building businesses or relationships outside of your organization or culture?
By looking for a pattern on our resume that aligns with our interests, we can begin to curate our focus.
For example, a colleague of mine is a leader in the nonprofit sphere. However, upon reflection, she noted that the most engaged and successful times in her career were spent at various roles in family foundations.
She drilled that down further and realized that even when it was not her official role or in her job description, she excelled and was recognized by peers, subordinates and other leaders for translating complex issues into simple, actionable terms.
Once we can translate our professional history into a statement or two that explains both our strengths and interests, we can further refine our purpose. However, this time instead of getting more specific, we will try to generalize our specialty.
In other words, how can we express our niche to others?
Using the example above, my colleague took the perspective of a family foundation board member to try to understand the value of her skill set. While she had worked with enough boards to embrace this perspective easily, it would have been just as easy for her to ask the opinion of a trusted colleague or chat with a recruiter about the value of her skills.
By taking — or soliciting — different perspectives, we can begin to generalize our specialty.
In this case, my colleague defined her niche around family foundations facing challenges to their core operations. Regardless of whether there were internal issues, market changes or unprecedented shifts, she could help family foundations understand the complexity of the issues and translate it into action.
With that in mind, she was able to reshape her resume, LinkedIn profile and elevator pitch to reinforce her expertise in that niche.
To truly create a leadership niche, we must take the final step: marketing. In this age of social media and personal branding, it has never been easier to refine our image.
In addition to the passive steps of updating our resumes, LinkedIn profiles and websites, it is critical that we embrace active marketing, too. Whether an introvert, ambivert or extravert, we must embrace the networking method that works best for us and get the word out.
This could include anything from incorporating our new pitch and phrasing into more conversations to asking trusted colleagues for endorsements or referrals and actively pitching recruiters.
The bottom line is that creating a leadership niche can be hugely beneficial and does not require a lot of effort. By rethinking our history, we can reshape our future, strengthen our leadership skills and open new opportunities.
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