Leadership is desired but rarely acquired.
Our first post in this two-part series shared 10 actionable tips from experts about how you can augment your leadership skills at work. While corresponding with nearly two dozen experts, we discovered that there isn’t a single system for becoming a leader.
Rather, building your reputation as someone who should be followed is a dynamic mixture of many different factors that suit personalities of all types.
Our series continues in this post with 10 more tips you can use to transform yourself from a follower to a leader.
Be a master at your job
Shefali Raina, Leadership and high-performance coach, Alpha Lane Partners
“To be seen as a leader and to inspire trust and respect in others, you first have to be seen as good at your job. Whatever your core job is, focus on being great at it — build subject matter expertise, learn to collaborate and deliver results in your job and build a brand of credibility and competence at what you do.”
Don’t live in a silo
Ilene Marcus, MSW, MPA; Founder, Aligned Workplace
“Leaders don’t only make their department or unit successful, they add to overall company success. As you work on projects or teams and go about your daily business, think about how to include others and make that part of your standard operating procedure.
“Not only will you build a cadre of supporters, you will produce a better outcome for the entire company. Your ability to align work and address multifaceted issues will be noticed.”
Ask to lead meetings
Desiré Greene, Managing partner, Luckett & Liles
“Meetings are essentially mini-projects and a great way to showcase leadership skills. By keeping attendees focused, ensuring all voices are heard, and synthesizing big ideas, you can demonstrate that you’re ready for other leadership roles.
“I’ll never forget the nod of approval from a company exec after leading my first conference call. My facilitation skills instilled confidence and opened the door for future opportunities.”
Genna Ziino, Content coordinator, Ariel
“So much of business today is conducted via email—it’s easy to feel like blasting out emails at the speed of light is the best way to go, but it’s important to remember that someone is reading that email and relying on your answers and expertise.
“Instead of firing away, take some time to strategically plan your writing to be reader-centered, giving your audience exactly what they need as clearly and concisely as possible.
“Work on having specific, clear subject lines; organizing longer emails into sections that make sense and using headlines for ease of skimming; and drawing attention to any action requests or deadlines instead of burying them.
“Crystal clear writing and knowing you’ve put thought into your responses makes people respect you—and also drives productivity.”
Be a morale builder
Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew, Founder, Soulstice Consultancy
“Build a network of colleagues from various departments and within your team. Listen to their stories to build trust.
“It isn’t always about being upfront and visible, but when people see that you are committed to step up in the behind-the-scenes work, willing to support them, your leadership shines. Be a morale builder even in the tough times.”
Kathy Taberner, Certified executive coach & co-founder of Institute of Curiosity
“When we are curious, we better understand each other and with this clarity comes fewer errors thus increased accurate productivity, engagement and accountability.
“When one person becomes curious, it can lead to collaboration where everyone becomes more open and non-judging which leads to collaboration and innovation, even decreases conflict.
“So, we suggest, employees get curious if you want to be seen as a possible leader.”
Sarah Finch, SarahFinch.com
“Leaders can’t lead if they don’t have followers. Talk to the people in your organization, even if you don’t work with them often. Learn their names and say hello when you see them. Help them out when you can.
In this world of technology as a primary mode of work communication, the value of a face-to-face relationship is high and those seen as leaders are often simply the people others can identify and remember moments and conversations.”
Jenny Hester, Director of Marketing, LIVE Design
“From calendars to task lists, look ahead to what needs to be addressed and accomplished. Set calendar reminders for both new tasks & recurring events.
“Give yourself deadlines of 3 days or more prior to all official deadlines. When out of the office, anything due in your absence or within a few days of your return should be handled before you leave.”
Stop whining and complaining
Laura Handrick, Career and workplace analyst, Fitsmallbusiness.com
“The fastest way to be seen as a leader in your workplace is to find problems, identify what’s broken, and then develop a plan or recommendations to fix it. In other words, don’t be a complainer about what’s not working. No one likes a complainer.
“Instead, be a solution provider. Most employees will gripe about issues. Leaders take those issues on as challenges and come up with ideas, recommendations and solutions to those problems as if it were their own company/business. They look for ways to improve the business, teamwork, processes and overall profits.”
Manage your emotions
Nancy Cramer, Founder, Correct Course Consulting
“One of the most important steps to becoming a leader is to learn to manage emotions. This does not mean to always be stoic. It means to respond authentically and appropriately to situations as they occur.
“When people are in tough leadership situations, they often let their emotions get the best of them. They let how they feel overwhelm them and cloud their thinking. Mistakes are made. Collateral damage is left.”
Wrapping it up: Take action, Focus on people
Much of what we learned from our experts’ input is that leadership is a matter of initiative and relationships.
Advancement is not for the passive and those who find great success are most satisfied when they achieve their success with people, not against them.