Let’s face it, getting positive performance reviews doesn’t guarantee you’ll be your boss’s successor. Chances are that some of your colleagues are also eying that position.

According to Tsogo Sun Group HR Director Vusi Dlamini, “You earn the right to be a contender. You get noticed, you deliver, you exert discretionary effort, and you have to be an obvious frontrunner. Your development and upward mobility is your responsibility. If you show sufficient hunger, have the right attitude and you deliver, you make yourself a contender.”

Think big: Dlamini says the key is to know your organisation’s vision, and to think big. He adds that, unlike succession planning – which is everyone’s responsibility in the organisation – wanting to be the boss’s successor is the individual’s responsibility. When you have decided that you want to fill your manager’s shoes, the first step should be “letting them know.” But you have to be very strategic about it.

Take a direct approach: First you have to ascertain that your boss does not – in any way – see you as a threat. You must also be able to state your case by substantiating why you want to be groomed for the position. Draw up a list of your accomplishments and qualities that make you the ideal candidate. However, you have to be honest about areas where you still need improvements so that your boss can help you be a better leader. Dlamini says leaders appreciate individuals who take the initiative and have a direct approach.

Work with the boss: Whenever there’s an opportunity to work with your boss, grab it with both hands. One of the best things to do, says Dlamini, is to assess your boss’s workload and offer assistance wherever it is needed. And when it comes to decision-making, try to learn how and why your boss reaches the decisions he or she does. This will help develop your judgement as a future leader.

Analyse his work: This is totally different from job shadowing and working with your boss. This should be about you learning how you can better do your boss’s job. But you must tread carefully here: never ever try to undermine your boss. Keep your observations to yourself, warns Dlamini, and only voice your opionion if your boss asks for your advice. The observations you make will also stand you in good stead if you’re ever interviewed for your boss’s job. But most importantly, don’t ever bash your boss – even when you know you’re the frontrunner for his position.

Lastly, Dlamini warns that this approach isn’t cast in stone and cannot be guaranteed to work for every organisation. He says that at Tsogo Sun, everyone knows that “the organisation is bigger than your boss”. So, if you can’t approach your boss in connection with his position, you can approach other senior managers for theirs.

“What’s more common than not is that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Why should you want everything linked to your boss? Managers should see themselves as custodians – rather than owners – of the business. Obviously, the higher you move up the corporate ladder the more difficult it is choose.”

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