It doesn’t matter what position you’re in, anyone can be a leader. You don’t have to wait to officially be promoted, you can start acting like a leader today (and then others will see you’re ready to be a leader at the next level).
Here are 5 ways to be a leader in your head, heart, and hands:
A leader creates the ‘weather’ on her team. By definition, a leader is someone who sets the culture on her team. Think of how you track the mood of the leader of your team… you are always wondering, “will my leader react well or badly?” or “will she be dismissive or welcoming of my input?” What is the experience you want each person to have when interacting with you? You have an opportunity to be the person who stays calm and clear thinking instead of reacting. You can create that culture around you.
A leader is only as effective as how far out she can see into the future. Many of us look at what is on our to-do list today and proceed to carry out tactics as effectively as possible to get it done. Similarly, we get caught up in day-to-day fire drills, or worry about what other people will think. This focus is on the current moment. A leader sees past ‘today’ and imagines the future. Optimally, have an attitude of realistic optimism. Share with the team your vision of the future and why you believe everyone can rise to the occasion.
A leader thinks of what is in the best interest of all, not just herself. A leader doesn’t just think about her own concerns—her to-do list or her promotions. These are wins that only advance her career. A leader thinks about what is in the best interest of everyone in the group. That way everyone can buy into what she proposes and feel safe in her decisions. Lead a discussion on your team about what a collective vision of an Ideal Day would look like or effective new ways you could work together.
A leader is someone who thinks about getting things done through people, not only about what she can get done by herself. A leader is someone who thinks about what can be accomplished when everyone is working together, or in partnership with another organization or team. Take an hour each week to think about how your piece of a project fits in with overall goals and how you could partner with other groups to benefit the project.
A leader thinks of herself as a leader. If you want to be a leader, start thinking like a leader. When everyone is following along or is stumped by a problem, a leader sees it as HER responsibility to come up with a solution. She dives into root causes and thinks up solutions, instead of waiting for others to show the way. She knows that inspiration is the most powerful source of energy. What inspires you? Share that with your team.
As they say in sales: “The first sale is to yourself.” Start to think of yourself as a leader today, and tomorrow decision makers in your organization will too!
–Sharon Melnick, PhD, Career Coach