Are You a Workhorse or a Showhorse?

“Are you a workhorse or a showhorse?”

That was the question one emerging leader was asked by her boss’s boss. “A workhorse,” was her initial answer, but it got her thinking that spending all of her time with her head down, delivering work was not the ideal career move. At the same time, she didn’t want to be known as a self-promoting showhorse. Or, as she put it, “All style and no substance.”

Workhorse versus showhorse: Which one are you?

You might be asking yourself: what’s the difference between the two?

Well, a workhorse chooses work assignments that are a good match for her strengths. A showhorse goes after high-visibility assignments.

A workhorse avoids the spotlight. A showhorse revels in it.

A workhorse spends the majority of her time with her head down, working hard, delivering valuable results to the organization. A showhorse spends more time networking, schmoozing, and promoting her accomplishments.

A workhorse is likely to be overlooked and underutilized. A showhorse is more likely to be resented by her peers, and may get thrown into assignments that are beyond her capabilities.

So, which style is the right one for you? As an aspiring leader, you’ll need to be both. So it’s not about being one or the other, but about balancing both styles for the perfect fit. Here’s how to get the balance just right: I recommend aiming to be 80% workhorse and 20% showhorse.

Finding the balance

Why don’t more people achieve this optimal blend of the two? Well, the short answer is that we’re creatures of habit. The longer answer is that it takes more time and thought to break out of your established pattern of behavior. Being a successful 80-20 work-horse/showhorse requires a more nuanced approach than simply “doing what you’ve always done”.

As an 80% workhorse, you’ll gravitate toward assignments that are a great match for your strengths. You’ll focus on delivering what you say you’ll deliver, and go above and beyond to deliver value in support of your organization’s goals.

But don’t stop there – be a 20% showhorse as well. Let people know what you’ve done and are capable of doing. Step away from your desk from time to time to build relationships and cultivate influential mentors and sponsors. Speak up frequently in meetings and on conference calls, and be vocal about your value and accomplishments. Volunteer for assignments that fully utilize your strengths, but also stretch you, tapping into your potential. So don’t just do the work. “Show” it as well.

Need a checklist of what to look for in an ideal “workhorse/showhorse” gig? Before you say “yes” to or volunteer for your next role or assignment, make sure it’s one where you can:

• Make use of your strengths

• learn new skills

• deliver high-value results

• expand your network

• be noticed by potential sponsors

• showcase your accomplishments.

Remember, you’re not looking to show off, but to show the best of what you’re capable of, so take don’t be shy: take on stretch assignments and challenge yourself to knock them out of the park!

Does your current role allow you to be part workhorse and part showhorse? If not, make sure that your next role or project lets you blend the two.

Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Follow by Email
Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
Follow by Email
25 Questions to Ask a Mentor

Whenever I’m asked “What are some of the best questions to ask a ...

Four Types of Questions To Ask Your Mentor

Have conversations with your mentor gotten a bit repetitive lately? Perhaps you approached ...

25 Songs For Your Leadership Playlist

What are your all-time favorite leadership songs — the ones that make you ...

How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work

Has this ever happened to you? You’re in a meeting and the unthinkable ...

5 Ways to be a Leader, Not a Manager

Have you ever wondered about the difference between a manager and a leader? ...

11 Leadership Lessons Learned

Here are 11 lessons I’ve learned about leadership—mostly from much-admired colleagues, and just ...

10 Killer Leadership Skills: The Great Differentiators?

Last week at Hallmark I hosted a couple gentlemen from a partner company. ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a question I ask in a survey ...

Influencing Without Authority—Using Your Six Sources of Influence

I am in the difficult situation of being unofficial project lead, responsible for ...

9 Traits of Exceptional Leaders

Truly great leaders are hard to come by, but it seems everyone thinks ...

Dealing with a Bossy Coworker
Dealing with a Bossy Coworker

You might expect the occasional “order” or “command” from your boss. But it’s a whole

Press Release: Be Leaderly Wins Gold & Silver at the 2019 Stevie Awards
Press Release: Be Leaderly Wins Gold & Silver at the 2019 Stevie Awards

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—June 11, 2019—Be Leaderly, a globally recognized provider of women’s leadership development and

15 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Stretch Assignment
15 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Stretch Assignment

Stretch assignments are like the Instant Pot of career development. An intensely challenging, ambitious, go-big-or-go-home

How Can Pay Transparency Make a Difference for Women?
How Can Pay Transparency Make a Difference for Women?

It’s well known that women still deal with a pay gap relative to men. But

5 Things to Know About Your Coworkers with Kids
5 Things to Know About Your Coworkers with Kids

You might’ve attended a baby shower in the break room, or maybe you caught a

4 Underrated Elements of a Career Advancement Plan
4 Underrated Elements of a Career Advancement Plan

A vice president of a financial company once told me, “Make a plan—or someone else

Negotiate Through Your Next Performance Review
Negotiate Through Your Next Performance Review

With performance reviews around the corner, I wanted to write a how-to post on negotiating.

Why Companies Should Give Women More Stretch Assignments
Why Companies Should Give Women More Stretch Assignments

Landing a coveted stretch assignment is a proven shortcut to a top role. Does your

5 Ways to Shine as a High-Potential
5 Ways to Shine as a High-Potential

There’s never been a better time to develop your leadership skills. According to Deloitte’s 2014

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

On a regular old day, you’re plugging along, attending to the work tasks in front

Ask Jo: How can I thank my mentor?

Question: I have an incredible mentor. She ...

Teamwork is a Skill. It Takes Practice!

Everyone wants to lead, or be a ...

It’s Worth the Risk (I promise)

This is Sarah. She’s one of my ...

100 Leadership Qualities

What are your leadership strengths? That’s a ...

Leaderly Quote: Great Leaders Know When to Step Aside

“Great leaders know when to step aside.” ...

At Be Leaderly, our mission is a simple one: To provide proven career strategies that help you lead, climb, and thrive as a rising woman of influence. If you’re ready to lead, we’re here to support and inspire you.

Copyright 2019, Be Leaderly