Quick tips to get you on your way to being the leader you were meant to be
It’s a new year. You’ve outlined your new goals. You’re looking toward the horizon with plans to take over the world.
Or at least…your world.
You may have your eye on a promotion at work – or finding other employment. You may desire becoming a well-respected and sought-after authority in your field. This process can take time – and there’s no better time than TODAY to start.
While it could take years to climb the ladder up into senior management, tapping into your personal strengths is something you can start doing right now. Learn how to use your current assets to build up your clout in the workplace or your industry.
And by now you’ve probably heard multiple times that your title or position in the company does not predispose you to any level of leadership influence. I am proof: as an executive assistant, I was and still am the one executives seek out for advice, feedback, guidance, and opinions. Why? I take my “why” seriously – I am here to serve and assist you grow and develop.
And speaking of “why” … do you know why you want to be seen as a leader? Why do you want to have that influence? That “why” needs to be clarified and kept front and center while you are establishing yourself as a leader. It’s different for everyone, so do go looking for the “right” reason to want it.
Positioning yourself as a leader will make your work more meaningful and advance your career. You can gain influence based on your title, or on knowledge and skills you already possess.
Or you may want to launch your own business, and want to try to overcome that ever-nagging imposter syndrome. Or perhaps…just perhaps…you want to stretch your reach and contribute on a more expansive level where you are right now. You have a strong desire – some might even feel it as a need (like I do!) to help and serve others in some capacity.
So as you go through this list of tips, you may find that not all of them speak to you. You may choose to focus on only one or two – or even try them all.
Using Your Knowledge to Position Yourself as a Leader
Read daily. Pick up books (paper, digital, or audio) about business advice or any topic that interests you. The more you read, the better prepared you’ll be to contribute to any discussion. You’ll sound like a leader whether you’re engaging in small talk or critiquing a new logo. Alternately – again, if you’re an auditory learner or spend a lot of time in the car, find and listen to podcasts.
Sign up for training. Take advantage of programs your employer offers. Brush up on your high school Spanish or become proficient with a new software package. On-line courses are plentiful and economical. Be proactive in expanding your knowledge and skills – they are yours for a lifetime and can never be taken from you.
Browse during breaks. Those brief intervals you spend on hold or pausing between meetings can be put to good use. Break out your phone and search for industry news. You’ll stand out if you’re the first one to notice a major lawsuit or merger. Just a quick scan can reveal recent updates. And for a little more help? Set notifications on topics you want to follow.
Take a course. Many adults juggle full time jobs while going back to school. Schedule an appointment at your local university to see what you need to complete your degree. And don’t discount taking a class to explore a new hobby or interest. Stimulating your brain in a new way, with new experiences, can expand your creativity and broaden your conversation reach.
Consult an expert. Contact others in your network who would be willing to share their wisdom. Interview a colleague who has published a new book and promote her work on your personal blog. You’ll both benefit from increased information and publicity.
Shadow a star employee. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, a high performer may be pleased to show you the ropes. Let them know that you admire their style. Offer to assist them with specific tasks so you can learn from their example.
Hire a coach. Coaches act as your accountability partner and challenge you to grow in a safe space. They do not judge, they help you dig deep, and ask the right questions. Having a coach tells people that you not only care about them, but you care about yourself and the way you want to develop.
Develop or grow a hobby. There is more to live than work. Seriously, there is. Do you live work or work to live? To maintain open perspectives and your inquisitiveness, you should have interests outside of work and are all your own. Having a multi-dimensional personality helps create an interesting and well-rounded life. And sets an amazing example for others.
Look the part. Caring how you look, present yourself, and share your message isn’t the shallow, vain, self-serving practice that some claim it is. It’s human nature. It’s instinctive to base opinions on visual stimuli (you’ve heard of color psychology, right?. Be authentic. It’s less “dress for the role you want” and more “dress for what you want to say.” Do you want some quick, easy tips? No wrinkles, no rips, no stains, and correct fit go a long way to clarify your professional message.
Using Your Skills to Position Yourself as a Leader
Take responsibility. Prove that you can be trusted to live up to your obligations. Develop a reputation for completing assignments and meeting deadlines. Ask for help when needed. Subscribe to the old adage, “under promise and over deliver.”
Document your accomplishments. Make it a habit to write down your ideas and achievements. Looking over your victories will boost your confidence. Even the missteps will suggest adjustments you can make to do better next time. And it will help make your life easier when it’s performance evaluation time!
Express enthusiasm. Attitude is an important part of leadership. Speak kindly to your coworkers and care about their welfare. Take an interest in them – families, hobbies, pets, sports, etc. Being BFF’s isn’t necessary, but creating a sense of community goes a long way. Find gratification in your work and how it serves that community.
Take initiative. Be willing to go the extra mile. Volunteer for tasks that fall outside of your job description even if they’re less than glamorous. Pitch in when the sales team needs a hand entering quarterly data. But get comfortable with expressing self-respect and setting boundaries. Also, respect the boundaries of others.
Share feedback. Thank people for commenting on your performance and recommending steps you can take to further your professional growth. Offer constructive and tactful criticism that enables others to do the same – after gaining permission to share said criticism. Again, show respect with boundaries and the capabilities of others to hear you. Conversely, if you receive unsolicited critical feedback, ask for clarification if needed or accept it in the spirit in which it was intended. If it makes you uncomfortable or elicits an internal negative reaction, (1) ask yourself why you feel that way, and (2) let the giver know how it made you feel and counsel them on how you would prefer to receive feedback in the future.
Give generously. Above all, let your colleagues know that they can count on you when they need your time and expertise. Strive to be a valuable team member. Keep an eye out for anyone who’s struggling so you can create mutually beneficial relationships. Offer positive words of encouragement and guidance.
Transform yourself into the kind of leader other employees will want to follow. Become the kind of leader you’d like to have. Emulate behaviors and actions that you’d like to see in others. Your knowledge and skills are valuable resources that can help you to develop your talents and inspire others.
Next week I’m going to explore more about exactly what leadership “is.” Does that sound backwards? It shouldn’t. Learning is a continuous circle, and it expands as you go deeper. Behavior modifications are fluid and adaptive to the circumstance.
What does leadership mean to you? Shoot me a message and I’ll share it in my next post. Let me know which of these tips you liked best, and why your view of leadership attracted you to it.