How to Recognize the Leader in Your Administrative Professional

You’ve worked together for years and observed your administrative professional’s performance go from good enough to better to best … How do you approach your admin about developing his or her leadership qualities? You start by assessing what they do well today to build a leader for tomorrow.

The late Vince Lombardi, American football player, coach and executive, said, “Leaders are made, they are not born.” I'm quoting him because I fervently agree – and because as a football fan, I just had to build in a blatant reference to the sport (the season officially begins September 4) – that leaders are made for a number of reasons.

The usual suspects are experience, diligence and dedication; however, how people become leaders is also largely due to someone in authority acknowledging their exceptional talents and accomplishments, and helping them to advance. Like a coach guiding his quarterback with a series of strategically planned plays, your management support will help direct your administrative professional’s career path for future leadership opportunities.

Whether you are a direct manager, a hiring manager or a mentor of someone who has proven leadership qualities in their past work and effort, provided below is a checklist of qualities to look for and observe:

Works smart

There is a difference between someone who works hard and a person who works smart. While a hard worker is to be admired, he or she may be spending too much time on a task or assignment, which could put overall timeliness in jeopardy. A smart worker demonstrates innovation, sensibility and thoughtfulness to complete an assignment on or before its due date.

Anticipates needs

When assigned a special project, your administrative professional pays attention to details, asks relevant questions and knows the resources to seek. The person promptly plans and sets actions in motion and impresses you with skills in preparation and delivery.

Acts as a subject matter expert (SME)

From your observations and feedback provided by others in the office, your admin is routinely turned to for input and guidance. The resident SME, the person is responsible and dependable, and people consider him or her a credible resource.

Builds productive relationships

Professional in presence and personable in office interactions, your administrative professional helps you and others create an environment that promotes teamwork. The individual's communications are clear, open and collaborative.

Thinks globally

In this context, global thinking means that your admin doesn’t see just his or her "world" in the company; the person realizes how his or her actions affect others in the organization and understands how people are now more connected. Understanding the work landscape, your administrative professional makes sound judgments that affect not only his or her work but the work of others.

Proactive, proficient, productive … do these words come to mind when you think of your administrative professional? If your answer is yes, the individual under consideration may be ready for the next step careerwise. If a mentoring or leadership training program is offered by your company, recommend your admin as an ideal candidate for it. If your organization doesn’t have a formal program, set up a mentoring relationship or offer a training plan that guides and fosters leadership development.

3 Questions to Ask Your Administrative Professional About Leadership

After you’ve made your leadership skills assessment, ask these questions to determine your admin’s perception of his or her readiness:

1. Where do you see your career going here? (Or, what are your goals at our company in the next 3-5 years?)

2. Tell me about your strengths (and weaknesses). How do you think they contribute to the goals of our organization?

3. As a leader, remember the three “A’s”: You must be aware, accountable and authoritative. Do you believe you’re ready?

In terms of skills assessment, are there other considerations or questions you believe are important to add?

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