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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Ask a Candid Boss: How Should I Talk to My Boss About Moving Into a Leadership Role?

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Dear Candid Boss,

How can I approach my current leader to see if I would be considered for a formal leadership role in the future? How do I start that conversation in a way that makes me seem qualified—and not just pushy or impatient?

Eager to Grow

Dear Eager to Grow,

I know that this conversation can seem nerve-wracking, but remember that it’s also exciting! You’re thinking about taking the next step in your career and a good manager will be equally enthusiastic about your hunger for growth.

When starting this conversation, the key thing is to not only explain the fact that you’re interested in management, but also why you’re interested.

If you can prove that you understand what the job is, why you would enjoy it, provide evidence that you would be good at it, and explain you can have more impact for the team as a manager than you do in your current role, your promotion to leadership will actually solve problems for your boss—not create them (that is, assuming there’s a role available to promote you to).

But before you get into that, you need to ask yourself: Do you want to be a manager for the sake of a more prestigious title, or do you really want to do the things that managers do?

You’ll be persuasive if you can show that you understand what managers are actually responsible for, and that you are eager to do those things yourself. But if all you really want is more control, more money, or just the bragging rights, your boss will quickly pick up on your intentions and you’ll risk undermining your credibility.

Remember, managers have a lot on their plate—and those duties aren’t always fun. As a leader, you’ll actively solicit criticism from your team members. You’ll give formal performance reviews. You’ll be held accountable for other people’s results—which means you’ll often have accountability without control.

For some people, all of that sounds exciting and meaningful. For others, that sounds like a living hell.

Management is important, but it’s certainly not the only path to major impact. It’s a rewarding route, but it’s also a hard one—so make sure the day-to-day of the job sounds appealing to you before approaching your boss to discuss moving up in the ranks. Do that, and you’re far more likely to have a great conversation.

Good luck to you!

This article is part of our monthly Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our coaches are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Candid Boss in the subject line.

Your letter may be published in an article on The Muse. All letters to Ask a Expert become the property of Daily Muse, Inc and will be edited for length, clarity, and grammatical correctness.

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