If you want to be a leader, you have to ask yourself, “Why should anyone listen to me and follow my lead?” If that question sounds harsh, you’re not thinking like a leader. Leaders know intuitively (or they’ve learned the hard way) that people follow them because they feel it’s in their best interest to do so. If you want to become a leader, start with the question, “How will it benefit others to listen to me and help me to turn my vision into a reality?”
Why would your boss or senior leaders promote you from being a manager into being a leader in your company? What do you have to offer them—from their point of view—that will help them to fulfill their vision as a leader?
Here’s how you become a leader:
Leaders see what is and then imagine how it can be better. Then they find a way to make it happen. If you want to be a leader, ask yourself, “How can I challenge the status quo and make things better than they are now?” Until you do that, you won’t be considered for a leadership position—because you’re not demonstrating leadership. You can’t wait for your boss to tell you what to do next. Managers wait to be told what to do while leaders come up with a vision and get others excited about it.
To be a leader, you have to bring about positive change. If you say, “But my boss or senior leadership doesn’t listen to me,” then you have a ways to go before being a leader. A leader inspires others to listen to them by presenting their ideas as solutions to problems others want solved or as ways to capitalize on opportunities others see as promising.
To be a leader, you must establish a track record and a reputation for being a change agent. Managers make sure that the current reality is running smoothly. Leaders change the current reality into a better reality. What needs to change and improve in your company or on your team?
Is the change and improvement in the direction your leadership is willing to go? If they don’t at first, can you help them to see what you see? That’s what leaders do–they help others imagine possibilities and help them see how it can be a reality. Managers offer ideas for improvement but leaders communicate the value and the plan so clearly that others say, “You’re just the person to make that happen.”
That’s how you go from being a manager to being a leader.