Though there’s no one-formula-fits-all recipe for career success, there are common ingredients in the form of behaviors and skills.
Here are the basic components, though the proportions can vary.
Your challenge is to cultivate the needed skills and bring them to life in portions that align your abilities and your organization’s culture and needs.
1. Gray-zone leadership. Gray-zone leaders are adept at building coalitions to solve vexing problems that often lurk between functional groups. The issues are important, but no one owns them. Gray-zone leaders identify those items vital to a firm’s or unit’s success and use their influence to bring the right expertise to the situation. Once successful, they dispense credit liberally, enhancing their influence and widening their visibility to senior leaders.
2. Power listening. “You’ll go as far as you can communicate,” was the guidance offered by an early career mentor. He was right, yet of all the communication skills you might develop, listening is the most important. Great listeners convey respect—the essential ingredient for trust—and get to core fears and aspirations in their exchanges. Effectively, power listeners gain an advantage because they can tune in and co-design approaches that serve their counterparts’ interests.