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How to Win a Bitter Leadership Contest

        posted by , May 07, 2013

We've all seen it happen. A rare opportunity opens up in your organization that sparks a leadership contest.

Such contests can become bitter and unsightly.

George Bellows Dempsey and Firpo 1924

If you're a contender for a leadership position there are a few simple strategies that can help you win:

1. Start Assuming Responsibilities Right Away

If the role is vacant (because someone left) ask decision makers if you can assume interim responsibilities.

If this isn't possible, take on any responsibilities you can that are related to the role.

2. Ask For It

Directly ask decision makers for the job. Don't expect to be handed the role. Make it clear that you're interested and give them time to think.

Never back decision makers into a corner. You're goal is to solve their problems — not to challenge them.

3. Make Your Goals Public

Many contenders for a leadership position keep their plans secret. This can be a mistake.

Think of it as a political campaign. You can announce your intentions at a strategic time but never keep it a secret too long. You want to get people to visualize you in the role.

4. Play Fair

The worst thing you can do is go around bad mouthing your opponent.

When you ask for the role it's important to do it in an open way that's transparent to all decision makers. You don't want any perception to surface that you're trying to sneak your way into a new job.

5. Be Positive Stupid

The second worst thing you can do is to complain that you deserve the role.

Unless you work for a government or a union (no offense intended) it's unlikely anyone's going to give you a job because you've worked the longest for it.

Focus on what you have to offer not what you're owed.

6. Work Hard

This might be obvious but it's amazing how often people skip this step.

If you're up for a promotion that increases your leadership responsibilities — this isn't the time to slack. In fact, you should be working hard and delivering whatever you can in the final stretch.

Failure Is An Option

People who campaign for a role and don't get it often become disengaged afterwards. Some end up leaving the organization within a few months.

This is usually a mistake. Depending on the nature of your organization, there are likely to be plenty of opportunities. Learn from your failure and tune your leadership skills for the next chance.

You have nothing to be embarrassed about. The only embarrassing thing would be not to try for something you want.

This is the 6th in a 9-part series of posts called how to win at leadership.

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