By: Sharon Smith
I’ve never resolved the conundrum, are good leaders born or made? I think that perhaps it’s a little of both. When we think of leaders we think of the Roosevelts and the Kennedys or of CEOs and the heads of organizations. At the very least, we think of managers and our own bosses. But my belief is that anyone can lead – even those of us in support positions.
Being a leader can mean taking initiative, charting your own day and taking on tasks that haven’t been directly assigned to you. Being a leader can be challenging gossip and negative ideas that are floating around at work. It can be as simple as being fully involved with the unit you support, whether you’ve been invited in or not.
Many people misunderstand the idea of an assistant position. They tend to stereotype assistants into the old receptionist, secretary role where you manned your desk in a professional manner, typing memos and filing reports all day. But in today’s electronic age, those roles are passé. Today’s assistants are there for whatever support their boss or work unit needs. There can be a variety of titles – executive assistant, staff assistant and technical assistant. But in one-way or another, they are all leaders.
In order to fulfill this support leadership role, assistants must take an initiative to be involved. They must want to understand the exact role the team plays within the organization. This can be done by asking questions, telling superiors you want to be involved and truly engaging with the team. Most bosses are willing to add an extra set of helping hands. Because even they may not appreciate what you can bring to the table, you have to be willing to show them.
Supportive leaders tackle tasks others don’t want to take on. If the team needs to track hours spent on projects, it’s a good idea to create colorful spreadsheets or tabled work documents to make the information easy to read. If someone needs to register multiple team members for a training session or conference, assistants should offer to do so.
If your boss is new in his/her role, offer suggestions about the position based on what you have learned from previous experiences. For example, you can schedule meetings that are most valuable and vet those that are not. By providing this guidance, you will earn their appreciation and respect.
Leading assistants offer to take simple routine tasks off their superior’s hands. This can include seemingly simple jobs like creating company travel arrangements The same can be done with other tasks like making requests, booking meetings and confirming appointments. These are all minimal but vitally necessary items that the entire team does appreciate.
Leaders aren’t always at the top of the agency or organization. Leaders can be found throughout. By speaking up, doing their best at any task given and offering to tackle extra items, assistants can show their worth. By proving this value to their coworkers and supervisors, assistants show that they can be leaders, too.