Unlock!
7 Steps to Transform your career and realize​
your leadership potential


Unlock!
7 Steps to Transform your career and realize your leadership potential


Chapter 4. Why Do I Want You to Have a Leadership Career?

Chapter 4. Why Do I Want You to Have a Leadership Career?

Abhijeet Khadilkar
Author & Leadership Coach @ CareerTiger

5 minute read

“Leadership is an opportunity to serve.” 

- J Donald Walters

Your Career Is Your Responsibility

It is getting close to 10:00 a.m. on May 16, 2019. My hands are clammy, and my nose is twitchy. It is late spring in Northern California. It can’t be allergies, I’ve already taken my non-drowsy anti-allergic medication. It’s probably nerves.

It is the first video interview of the Career Nation Show, with Sheila Jordan. If you haven’t heard about Sheila, you should. She is the chief digital technology officer at Honeywell and former chief information officer at Symantec®, one of the world’s leading security software companies. She is also a board member at Slack. In other words, she is a fearless female leader in the tech industry, which is notorious for low gender diversity.

I try to hide my nervousness as the interview starts. I think I’m being successful at it as we get into the discussion.

And then Sheila launches into a prophetic message, “Don’t give your career to your manager, to your environment, to your work, to someone else. Don’t be a victim of your career. You own it; you get to decide what you want to do, what you want to be, where you work; you own that.”

That’s it! My career is my responsibility. I’d always been convinced of this deep down, but it was not until Sheila articulated it that it became so clear.

This Is an Emergency

You could outsource your travel by calling an Uber. Get dinner by ordering via DoorDash or GrubHub. Or get groceries delivered.

Is it possible to do the same for exercising? Obviously not! You have to put in the work to stay fit and healthy.

What about your career growth? Can someone else do it for you?

Nope! Your career growth is job #1. And guess what? You have to put in the work yourself.

No cavalry is going to show up to help you. Your company might provide adequate resources, but it is not going to help you drive your career. Your manager might offer you some advice based on their vantage point, but it’s not going to replace your effort and accountability.

You are responsible. You are accountable. For your life's sake.

That’s why taking control of your career right now is an emergency. Every day you put it off, you are moving away from having a great career and a better life. It’s like you are digging your own grave. It is time to stop digging and take control of your career.

Who Is a Leader?

Everyone has the capability to be a leader. Anyone can be a leader.

Leadership is not a title. It is not about having a title.

A leader is anyone who leads a collection of individuals toward a goal or outcome.

You are a leader if you lead a:

  1. 1
    Process
  2. 2
    Goal
  3. 3
    Topic
  4. 4
    Event
  5. 5
    Function
  6. 6
    Outcome
  7. 7
    Team
  8. 8
    Project
  9. 9
    Association or a group
  10. 10
    Customer / vendor / partner

If you lead any of these, or if you can make the effort to lead any of these, you are a leader. Period. End of story.

Is Leadership a Lot of Work?

When you were learning to ride a bike, it took a lot of effort. Maybe one of your parents or grandparents or close family helped you to learn. As you learned more, you gained confidence. After some time, riding became second nature. Now, you don’t even think twice about hopping on. It comes naturally to you and it is effortless.

Leadership is very similar.

You might have to put some effort into it initially and get help from others, including mentors, teachers, and coaches. Over a period of time, you will surely master it.

Once you make the leadership switch, it comes naturally to you. It is effortless.

Food in the Fridge: Why I Want You to Have a Leadership Career

Incorporate America, there is an unwritten mantra: up or out.

You can have a trajectory that is upward: better skills, more experience, better titles, and higher responsibilities. You can be moved out of your job to a different one or asked to leave.

You see, there is no middle ground. There is a section of people that want to “coast” in their jobs, which is another name for doing the bare minimum required for the job to collect compensation and benefits.

Sorry folks, coasting is a dead end. As companies optimize their teams, their workloads, and look at different ways of getting work done, coasting is dead. At some point, your manager or your company will find out. People who want to coast along in their jobs either leave on their own or are categorized in the “out” category.

It is like food in the fridge. Not good enough to eat. Not bad enough to throw in the trash. It just sits there. Until it is really time to throw it out.

Don’t be food in the fridge.

When you have a leadership trajectory, you create outcomes, deliver results, and manifest value. You:

  • Leverage your strengths
  • Help others
  • Create more value
  • Gain visibility
  • Receive higher compensation
  • And get promoted

And that is why my sincere wish for you is to take up the mantle of a leader.

Opportunity awaits.

Talk Is Cheap: Should You Listen to Armchair Experts?

You know the type: this person will claim to have all the experience and knowledge in the world. But he doesn’t. The guy has never been a leader in the corporate world. Nor has he ever had the scars on his back that teach real-world lessons. However, he will talk a great talk. You might have heard this type of career advice a million times.

“Follow your passion.”

Or …

“Do a great job and everything will follow.”

Or …

“Work hard, play hard.”

… And many more.

These are sound bites that typically surface during work conversations. The advice feels good, but it is not actionable at all.

People who give this type of advice are generally good-natured people who themselves might not know what they are talking about. These are armchair experts.

And they are everywhere. In fact, you might have already come across some of them. The reason armchair experts exist is that career advice is easy to give. The talk is cheap.

See, career advice is easy to give, but it’s very hard to implement because often there are bigger questions behind these clichéd answers.

  • What should I pursue from a career standpoint? What should be my objectives and goals?
  • How do I know what my passion is? Should I follow my passion?
  • How can I become a successful leader?
  • How can I demonstrate leadership?
  • How can I create value? Not only for myself but also for my organization and my community?
  • What does it mean to do a great job? Isn’t that a relative term?
  • I understand I should work hard and put in the effort. But in what areas? Where should I invest my time and energy?
  • Why is option A better than option B for my career? Why do I feel so strongly about a particular career path vs another? Where does my true expertise lie?
  • What should be my next career move? What kind of investment will be required? What tools can I use to move ahead?
  • Have my career choices been effective so far? Why? Why not?

These are questions for which we do not get satisfactory answers from armchair experts.

You Google for solutions or seek career advice from friends, colleagues, or managers, but you do not find answers to your specific questions and your specific situation. You do get advice, but it is fairly generic, and it is hard to apply generic advice to your specific situation.

Why I Mentor Others, and Why I Wrote This Book

I have observed people in various industries, in different companies and roles struggle to find ways to transform their career. They are talented, smart, and hardworking people, but unable to improve the course of their professional lives.

I saw this pain and frustration firsthand. So much great talent and potential were not being fulfilled. If people could Unlock! this potential, they could not only help themselves but also help the people, organizations, and communities around them. Talk about a win-win-win. I found it meaningful to help colleagues and industry peers with their careers. It created meaning for me.

That is why I wanted to solve this problem of career frustration and stagnation: help these smart, hard-working professionals realize their true potential, to realize their dreams and aspirations.

Over the course of my career journey, I developed approaches and tools for advancement. Some of those tools became super clear to me immediately, and some were developed over a period of time.

During my experiences in the corporate world and my coaching practice, I used these tools to help hundreds of professionals. They not only liked using these tools, but by applying them, they found success in a variety of areas: getting promoted, finding better opportunities, identifying new ventures, or building high-performance teams. You, too, can find the same success.

These tools are now available to develop your own career and become a successful leader.

Your Unique Career Path

Have you seen yourself in the mirror lately? If you haven’t checked recently, please do it now.

I’ll wait.

You might have noticed that you are unique on the planet. There is no one else who looks exactly like you, has the same first name, has the same family members, has lived in the same places, has experienced the exact same journey … you get the idea.

Your career journey is uniquely yours. It will be a unique career path based on your potential, your skills, and your experience.

This is how Unlock! helps you: it provides tools for you to succeed in your own, unique career journey.

Unlock! The Inside Story

By now, you know my story, right? I literally had nothing going for me. As I went through the darkest of my days, I considered how I could build a great career despite the adversity. How could I take advantage of market trends? How could I get into a great job opportunity? And most importantly, how could I make this success repeatable and sustainable?

I used to doodle a lot. (Still do!) I used visuals to express the solutions to my career problem. These visuals became a way for me to solve specific problems: career direction, finding my next job, improving my performance. These visuals became my tools and the basis for my playbook.

And thanks to those tools and resultant playbook, I was able to chart out a successful career with roles across the following industries and functions over the last twenty years.

  1. 1
    Industries: tech, financial services, healthcare, life sciences, manufacturing, media, and energy
  2. 2
    Functions: marketing, sales, product, services, supply chain, operations, and IT
  3. 3
    Technologies: cloud, SaaS stack, CRM, marketing automation, sales automation, service automation, data analytics, and AI

In the last ten years or so, I’ve been actively coaching professionals in Silicon Valley and beyond. As I coached these amazing individuals across companies, industries, and functions, I observed where they were getting stuck and identified specific patterns.

I discovered that the tools that had helped me in my own career were not only applicable to others but also created amazing results for them. By using these tools in coaching sessions over a period of time, these tools have become sharper, polished, refined, and effective.

And now, these tools are available to you. Let’s explore these and apply them to transform your career and realize your true leadership potential.

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