Getting a new job at management level means showcasing your leadership skills and your ability to communicate well. The first test a prospective employer will expect you to pass is presenting yourself well in your resume. Many people think that leadership and management are the same things, but leadership is only one element of management albeit an important one. So, before you choose a free resume builder and get cracking with demonstrating leadership, let’s first clarify what leadership really means.
Simply put, leadership is your ability to direct and guide people in such a way that they genuinely want to follow your instructions and reach the targets you have set for them – or even exceed them. A lot of skills play into that, but in essence, leadership is a people skill. It’s about being a leader that people actually want to follow instead of one whose instructions they obey out of necessity.
Entire books have been written about what it takes to be a good leader. In (very) short form, some of the skills effective leaders share are the ability to lead by example, motivate and inspire subordinates, communicate well, offer recognition for team successes, empower teams and individuals to achieve workplace goals, and inspire respect through integrity. A leader is able to communicate a vision and enthuse others to be part of achieving it, and it may also mean making tough decisions.
These are the types of skills you need to highlight if you want to show that you’re not only a manager, but a leader too – and you need to do it all in your resume. That’s a very short-form document, so how do you demonstrate your potential in just a few words? Let’s move onto that topic next.
Typically, your resume will include a list of previous jobs and the skills you exerted and developed while doing them. Even if you’ve never been a manager before, you can look for examples of how you’ve shown leadership skills. What those might be depends on your individual experience, but any occasion when you had to mobilise a team to achieve a result should prove to be fertile territory.
Verbs that point towards leadership skills include: empower, delegate, guide, communicate, mentor, champion, engage, mobilise, coach, and of course, lead. When using these verbs, match them with results. Keep it down to the length of a bullet point. For example: “Empowered my team to consistently exceed its targets,” or “Communicated strategic goals and led a successful restructuring exercise.” Always know exactly why you are listing a skill and its related achievement. Interviewers may ask for finer detail and you will need to have your answers ready.
Recruiters spend a lot of time developing and refining the specifications for an advertised post. Don’t waste their time! While you might mention a few extras, focus in on the criteria they’ve selected and tailor the way in which you express yourself accordingly. You’re aiming to “check the boxes” and since those “boxes” are specified in the job description, it’s a matter of joining the dots between your past work experience and the new role you hope to fulfil.
Don’t pretend to have skills that you don’t have, but do consider that you may unconsciously have used leadership skills in the past. Many applicants “undersell” themselves because they fail to recognize their own leadership achievements. Others overstate and are exposed as having exaggerated their abilities. Get the balance right!