Rising Leaders Need Your Go-Ahead Nod

When was the last time your point leader gave you a go-ahead nod? What were the circumstances and how did it all turn out?

Like a baseball coach sending a runner the sign to steal on the next pitch, leaders in your life can let you loose with a simple head nod. It happens when your boss eventually says, “Go for it!” after you pitch your latest wacky idea. Or, after a few weeks of pumping the brakes, they finally greenlight your game plan to retool your team or department. Better yet, even though you have nothing particular in mind, your boss clearly knows you want a new challenge, so they lob it your way.

Getting a go-ahead nod feels great, especially for rising leaders who are poised to lead at a higher level. Even if leaders look like they always push ahead without permission, don’t overlook the opportunities and confidence boosts they received along the way. As rising leaders, their family, teachers, coaches, employers, and peers each played a part in building them into the influencer they are today. And now that you’re leading others, it’s your turn to give go-ahead nods to the rising leaders around you.

Ask yourself these three questions to figure out who needs your go-ahead nod sooner than later:

1. Who on your team is trying to get your attention?

If you’re a leader, you’re probably busy. “Interrupt me” isn’t written all over your face, and that can be intimidating. That said, there are telltale signs from people you lead that they’d like a few minutes of your time. Be on the lookout for those who make eye contact with you in the halls, stroll by your office, or attempt small talk before or after meetings. Rising leaders might be testing the waters to see where they stand with you before tossing out a remarkably innovative idea or strategic question.

2. What’s not being said in your meetings?

It’s difficult to read the room when you’re doing all the talking. Your better option is to become your organization’s CQA (Chief Question Asker). Sadly, it’s not enough to simply change your bullet point agenda from a list of topics to a series of questions. Honesty requires trust. When your team trusts that you’re about conversation over compliance, it changes the tone of your interactions. So, instead of dieseling, see who will share what they are holding back from saying and bite your tongue as they speak. It could be as simple as asking, “What isn’t being said right now that could change the trajectory of this (meeting, project, conversation, problem)?” Give rising leaders the go-ahead nod to speak freely and see what happens.

3. Where is there room to roam?

Rising leaders may seem like they’re ready to run wild, but they might not actually know-how. You can keep them from guessing by telling them what’s in and out of bounds. Undergrad students need permission and time to break free from previous educational molds to get the most out of grad school. Junior-level associates join the ranks better when someone with seniority shows them the ropes. Once new guidelines are in place, rising leaders are able to contextualize and realize their potential both inside and outside the proverbial box. Free them up with a clear go-ahead nod to dream, experiment, and fail without feeling like everyone’s fate is on the line.

Your next breakthrough could be in the hands of a rising leader around you. They need your go-ahead nod to speak up, take a risk, push through a crisis, or try something untried so that your team or organization can move ahead. Sure, they might take this initiative on their own, but they’re always ready to hear from you along the way that they’re on the right track.

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