We've all been there. We've all probably witnessed it. Maybe we've even been a part of it. We actually binge-watch it on television series like Game of Thrones, Billions, Breaking Bad, and Ozark.
It's the maneuvering, the backstabbing and the positioning for power that can make us cling to the edges of our seats at home. And it can actually be a draw for competitive-minded people in the workplace--as the drama might serve a small rush of intrigue, the strategizing might become an outlet for game-play, and the excitement might feel enticing, at least for a little while.
But is this how the working world really works?
The answer to that question is both yes and no. I've seen plenty of scrappy people step on the toes, even tarnish the reputations of coworkers just to advance their own careers.
I've also seen employees step out of the limelight, to avoid things like politicking, backstabbing, and ugliness. They've lost opportunities because their values wouldn't allow them to do anything that might question their integrity.
This approach, although admirable, is often difficult for young employees to digest. It may be steady. It may also be very slow.
Is there a different way to stick to your values, maintain your integrity, and still fly up the ladder to leadership and stay there? There is. Here are six lessons I've learned--through countless interviews of leaders from the world and throughout my own career history--that both maintain integrity and capture the spotlight to help you rise up quickly:
1. Lift others, not yourself.
Throughout my career, I've watched leaders rise and gain the spotlight by focusing on helping those around them thrive, rather than just focusing on their own work--whether they had the title already or not. This will be your role when you become a leader some day: helping and inspiring others to become their best. Go ahead and prove you can handle it.
2. Treat people like family.
It may sound cliché, but it's true: We all know when our bosses and coworkers sincerely care about us. We feel it, we know we're part of something bigger than ourselves.
Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40, calls his staff a tribe. Think about what that means for second. When you show the tribe that you're there to support it, then it will support you. Employees who consistently show their commitment to the tribe often garner attention as future leaders.
3. If there's heat, learn to remain dispassionate.
Disagreements and drama are bound to happen in any group. The question isn't if you'll be involved. It's how you'll be involved. I've sat in board rooms where extremely smart people have emotionally lost their cool, said things they can't take back, and ruined their chances at future leadership roles--all because they didn't remain cool-headed in the face of high-pressure.
4. Let people win and lose--because it's okay.
Your path through your career will include wins and losses. Remember that those around you are also going to experience wins and losses, too.
When someone else loses, don't take advantage of them. View it as an opportunity to gain a trusted partner, instead.
Help your colleague find the win category again. They'll cover your back the next time you need it, and your leadership team is probably paying attention.
5. Value differing perspectives.
In a current culture overloaded with division, it's important to realize why you have certain perspectives--and to try understanding why others might have perspectives that differ from yours. It's okay to disagree. It's OK to ask questions.
It's not OK to be unkind. Don't waste your time trying to prove someone wrong. Instead, invest your time in being successfully collaborative.
6. Recognize people, their effort and their results.
Whether you're dealing with your boss, a coworker, an employee, a vendor, or someone who works on the other side of the building, it's time to polish your recognition skills. Everyone wants a pat on the back when they've done something great. When you're the one showing appreciation, those people will remember you--and they'll be more likely to want to work with you in the future.
Integrity may not always be the easiest path. Though it may not be the fastest, it doesn't have to be slow. There are still ways to climb the corporate ladder quickly, all while sticking to your own values and remaining the person you've always wanted to be.