“You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.” – Henry Ford, Founder, Ford Motor Company
Executive assistants today frequently hear that “EAs are leaders”. Some EAs embrace this wholeheartedly, others are not quite sure. Is every EA a leader? Does every EA think and perform like a leader? Since leadership can be practised and learned, all assistants have the potential to be leaders.
Here are some leadership traits that will benefit assistants throughout their career. Remember, you don’t need to set the entire world on fire. Making a difference within your sphere of influence may be enough. For EAs with their sights on broader horizons, developing these traits will take you a long way into a promising future.
Leaders are Visionaries. They have foresight and vision. Envisioning the “big picture” is what leaders do. The big picture is the possibility, the potential. As an EA, what possibility and potential can you see – at the level of your routine tasks, or on a bigger scale – that will make a difference to your performance, and lift up the performance of your executive and team?
Leaders are Experts at Execution. They know how to get tangible results. A major contribution of executive assistants is in helping their executives and organizations make their vision a reality. Exceptional assistants know how to get things done. They are clear about their responsibilities and are disciplined, focused and methodical in carrying out objectives and goals.
Leaders are Effective Communicators. Not only do leaders see the big picture, they are able to communicate it and get others to buy in. In my book “The CEO’s Secret Weapon”, I say that the assistant is the executive’s “brand ambassador”. To be a brand ambassador, you must be able to communicate clearly, effectively and diplomatically. There must never be any doubt that you know exactly what you are talking about.
Leaders are Motivators. Leaders are able to motivate the team to get behind an idea, to have a go. They inspire people to believe in themselves and their abilities. At one of my jobs, my boss would ask me to “ light a fire” under our teams, because I demonstrated a can-do spirit and a sense of certainty we would get the job done.
Leaders are Passionate. They are all in with their mission. They know what they want to achieve and move confidently in that direction with high energy and determination. To be a superior EA, bring passion to your job. Love what you are doing and immerse yourself wholeheartedly in it.
Leaders are Focused. They are seldom deterred or distracted from their goal, and if they are, they know how to quickly get back on track. Tony Robbins says “where focus goes, energy flows”. Keep your focus on your objectives.
Leaders are Creative Thinkers and Problem Solvers. They are solution-oriented and find ways to come up with the answers. They approach their work with a possibility mindset. Creative assistants are always finding ways to get better and do better.
Leaders are Emotionally Intelligent. This is an area where EAs can show greater leadership than many executives. Some business leaders are not self-aware and lack empathy. EAs generally bring strong emotional intelligence to the workplace, particularly with their inter-personal skills, but they must be careful not to get caught up in empathizing too much, always trying to please everyone, or trying to be liked.
With leaders there is no one size fits all. Leaders are diverse and multi-dimensional. They bring numerous talents to the table and are a constant source of inspiration to the world. You don’t have to be Rosie Batty or Malala Yousafzai to be considered a leader. Having self-belief, a sense of purpose, taking the lead, communicating effectively, getting things done, all these are hallmarks of leaders. It takes practice and with perseverance, assistants can learn to apply these skills and demonstrate their leadership ability.
© Jan Jones. 2019
Jan Jones is the author of the internationally-acclaimed book “The CEO’s Secret Weapon”. A former executive assistant to Tony Robbins, Jan is now a successful businesswoman.