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Want to Be Promoted? Title and Compensation Are The Wrong Motivators

Want to Be Promoted? Title and Compensation Are The Wrong Motivators

We must stop believing that the entire employee population wants to advance their careers. This simply is just not true.

Leaders are often frustrated when, try as they might, they can’t seem to ignite everybody on their team. Isn’t it human nature to forge ahead and strive for more?

There will always be a segment of the employee population who will deliver exactly what is being asked — no more, no less. We must recognize that although they are not going to lead the charge, they do play a role in getting stuff done.

For those of you who want to be promoted, you must ask yourselves why this is ever so important. Aspiring leaders are often attracted to the cache of senior roles. When probed as to why this is important the rationale seems to be status and prestige.

If that is the underpinning to your motivation, you are most likely going to hit a few roadblocks. I watch leaders who seek increased power where acquisition is the driver. Money, title and size of their organization becomes a single-minded pursuit.

These leaders often derail. They become that noisy loud and boisterous guest at a cocktail party that nobody wants to be around. Self-centeredness prevails and a sense of one’s own greatness erodes trust and credibility. A pattern emerges where leaders start to alienate their peers and team members.

[Related: Employees Leave Leaders, Not Companies]

Here is the litmus test. If you were in an elevator with a senior executive and were asked about your career aspirations how would you answer that question? You have 30 seconds to make an impression. Could you do so in a compelling way?

Here are a few secrets that shouldn’t be so secret. This is what matters the most.

1) Step Back - Remove yourself from the tactical components of your role. Do you have a grasp of the larger picture? If you are exclusively focused on short-term deliverables, you are a doer and not a game changer. Those around you will ultimately be evaluating whether you have both the capability and capacity for a larger role.

2) Differentiate Yourself - There are a lot of hard workers. Most people do work hard. You must differentiate yourself from the pack. What is your unique offering? If you can’t answer that question then how can you be compelling to those who influence your career?

[Related: 3 Ways Young Women Can Stop Blending in and Start Getting Noticed]

3) Demonstrate Innovative Thinking - Take your current business and offer up a creative model that will enhance, change, or revolutionize growth. Great leaders know how to create their own market value.

4) Cultivate Your Pipeline - Identify talent and provide a bench of future leaders. Leadership means that you have the ability to create successors. Make it clear that you are motivated by the greater good.

5) Articulate A Compelling Vision - Your stakeholders will have different and sometimes competing agendas. Your goal is to find the common ground and then rally everyone towards a collective goal. You must be able to influence those around you in tangible ways.

6) Find A Champion - Effective stakeholdering is an advanced skill set. Most leaders don’t come by this naturally. Your champion should have skills that reflect a history of promoting and cultivating three key elements. Diversity of thought, collective engagement, and shared execution.

Hard work and dedication matter. But why should you be up for a promotion? Your leadership brand must reflect your unique value proposition. Ask yourself this question, a few years from now what will your legacy be? You should be able to answer that.

Now go out there and prove it. Prove it to yourself and prove it to those who can make a fundamental difference to the advancement of your career.


Cindy Wahler, Ph.D., C.Psych. is a leadership consultant specializing in executive coaching and talent management. She can be contacted at

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