Job assignments are one of the oldest and most important forms of leader development. It can give you the opportunity to learn by doing, and more importantly, allow you to grow as a leader. But not every job can help develop leadership, however. It must be something that stretches you, pushes you out of your comfort zone, and requires you to think and act differently.
Research into what makes a job developmental has identified five broad sources of challenge related to learning:
- Job transitions. A change in work role – whether change in content, level of responsibility or location – requires you to handle responsibilities that are in some way unfamiliar and where the usual routines and behaviors are no longer adequate.
- Creating change. Jobs that require you to create change call for actions and decisions in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity. You are responsible for new directions, must address inherited problems and face problems with employees who are dealing with change.
- High levels of responsibility. Assignments with high levels of responsibility have greater breadth, visibility and complexity; they also expose you to pressure and high-stakes decisions.
- Managing boundaries. Most leaders are accustomed to managing downward. In situations where you must work across lateral boundaries your new challenge is to work with people over whom you have no formal or direct authority.
- Dealing with diversity. Most organizations are experiencing rapid and substantial increases in diversity, not only in the domestic workforce but also in the demands of operating in the global arena. This requires you to learn to work with and manage people from different cultures or countries as well as with people of both genders and of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Finding a job that has leadership development potential can be difficult. What are some ways you found challenging job assignments that allow you to learn and grow as a leader?