By Neal Eisenstein, MBA, MCC. One of the tricky leadership challenges that all rising leaders face is interpreting the spoken and unspoken expectations above us. We take the boss’s past comments literally and we bring righteous and loyal energy to responding to the spoken and unspoken messages that inform how we approach our work.

We tell ourselves “If she doesn’t tell me…,” “if he isn’t explicit…,” “if the boss doesn’t clarify the way forward, I’ll continue to manage to the status quo.”

Unfortunately, we sometimes wait too long for guidance, direction, or permission to lead powerfully. And sometimes, even if we assert ourselves, we miss important learning lessons to be more influential, have greater impact, and feel more in control of our career.

How rising leaders project their ownership, courage, and confidence in the face of their boss’s resistance to change or lack of direction can mean all the difference in one’s career and ability to make the right kind of impact. Too often, we wait too long or for the wrong reasons to step up. We silently work to interpret what’s ok with our boss, what he wants us to do, what’s ok with her or what will keep you out of trouble. Until that happens, despite all the YouTube videos, industry conferences, and inspiring books sitting on our aspirational reading list, we wait and hope and maybe even simmer. We find pockets of opportunity and do our best to drive our agenda to keep the place running and make a difference. In effect, we place the power and impact of what others expect and deeply want us to own on the back burner…our power to take ownership and action.

Three steps to assert yourself with greater clarity and effectiveness

  1. Review past performance feedback. Usually, there are important messages in the feedback that reveal the areas that you can take action on.
  2. Actively lead healthy change. Let the boss know what you’re doing as an FYI but take the reins and lead the way.
  3. Circle back to the boss and let her know what you accomplished, the impact, and what you learned in the process.

The fundamental work of executive development is building greater confidence and avoiding the trap of waiting too long for others to clarify the way forward when we are usually quite capable of taking the reins and leading the way. Is it time for you to stop waiting for permission?

To learn more about taking the reins and asserting ourselves to lead healthy change, schedule a consultation with Neal.