You might not be in a leadership position yet, but if you’re working hard to get there, it’s time to act the part. If you’re unsure how to lead, that’s ok. It all starts with upholding certain principles and incorporating them into your day-to-day actions. Here are a few tips to emulate the traits that excellent leaders possess, setting the stage for you to become a great leader yourself one day:
Seek to understand your company’s shared vision. Leaders are tasked with communicating a company’s vision to their employees and motivating them to take action to make that vision a reality. Make sure you understand where you’re headed and what your role is in helping your organization get there. If you need clarification, ask for it.
Work on your communication skills. Communication skills are essential at every level of the organization but are especially critical for leaders. Practice truly listening to others and hearing their ideas with an open mind. When speaking to others, look them in the eye, be direct and clear, and work on articulating what you mean to say without rambling. If your objective is to get people on board with an idea, think about your key points and plan out what you intend to say. When writing, use clear language and be succinct—make every word count.
Become a people person. OK, this doesn’t mean you need to become the life of the party at work or start spending more time chatting people up in the break room. It simply means you should make a sincere effort to get to know the people working at your organization. What makes each of them tick? What motivates Joe and is that different from what motivates Amy? Ask thoughtful questions of everyone in your department: colleagues, those you manage and your boss(es). The best leaders have empathy. Build this characteristic and you’ll give your leadership aptitudes a serious boost.
Think about the big picture. When you’re a staff person or manager, sometimes your job is to get things done. Make sure you take time each day to take a step back and think about the future and how your role fits into your organization’s overall strategy. Broaden your perspective a bit to get a better sense of what your company and your department are striving to do and how you’re progressing toward that. Think not just about your daily to-do list, but your goals for the month and the year.
Build morale. Rallying employees to work toward a goal takes finesse, and the best leaders do so by using techniques that inspire, not those that intimidate. When you build morale, employees feel valued and appreciated—and are willing to work hard. You can help contribute to a great culture and improved morale in your everyday interactions with people. Recognize your coworkers’ hard work. Send out notes of appreciation to your staff for their efforts after reaching a big goal. And try to inject a little fun into the workplace.
With passion, dedication and hard work, you can hone your communication skills, ability to be convincing and compelling, and motivational skills—all traits of great leaders. Leaders are made, not born, after all. And because that is true, there’s no better time to practice and prove to your superiors that you have what it takes to lead.