How to Be a Leader in Any Role (and Why Your Career Depends on It)

 

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Here’s the thing: you don’t need a senior title to demonstrate leadership. However, you do need to demonstrate leadership to earn a more senior title.

In fact, as you move up the ladder, it becomes more and more important to instill confidence in the people around you and set a positive example. But: if you don’t start leading today, you may never get a fighting chance at that promotion down the line.

While true leadership takes time to fully embody, it will open infinite opportunities once you master it. Here are four success habits you can adopt that will help develop your personal brand as a leader within your org.

1. Widen your focus (and tune in). 

Have you ever been in a team meeting and zoned out when the conversation turned to projects or information that didn’t directly affect you? Pro-tip: do the opposite.

Only a handful of people have the patience and capacity to invest in the bigger picture outside of their deliverables or their personal career goals. The good news? You can learn this “team focus” with practice, and it can actually serve your personal career goals.

Start small by tuning in when colleagues discuss projects that don’t directly involve or relate to you. You don’t have to chime in. Just listen. The goal isn’t to become a know-it-all, but rather to develop a broader awareness of your team dynamics and a deeper understanding of your colleagues.

Great leaders approach their work with a holistic view of how it plays into larger team or org-wide initiatives. And, because they know their team members’ personal brands, they are able to utilize their strengths and interests to play initiatives out more efficiently.

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2. Own up to your mistakes.

Hate to break it to you… you’re not perfect. No one is. Not even great leaders. But: what distinguishes a great leader is her ability to admit, accept, and learn from her mistakes.

Did you goof on a recent deliverable? Flub a client interaction? Don’t try to hide it, and definitely don’t shift blame. Instead, confront the problem head on and make a plan to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

Most importantly, talk it over with your manager. She can offer insight around the situation, and you’ll make a good impression by demonstrating your ability to be humble, learn, and grow.

The key here is to not allow your mistakes to define your personal brand or hinder your career. Instead, allow yourself grace for human error and self-reflection, then hop back in.

Remember: you’re more likely to make a mistake when you’re trying something new and out of your comfort zone, or when taking on a challenge. Initiative is a positive attribute, even if it doesn’t go the way you want at first.

In the words of Roy T. Bennett, author and motivation guru, “How much you can learn when you fail determines how far you will go into achieving your goals.”

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3. Be proactive with your work. 

While widening your focus (re: #1), go one step further to identify problems, suggest solutions, and volunteer for projects that appeal to your personal brand.

When you voice active interest in work, (and willingly take on increased responsibility) you demonstrate to everyone your capability and desire to lead.

We’re not suggesting you be the “yes man” who takes on more than she can handle. Part of reaching our career goals is keeping our personal brand at the forefront of everything we do. This means actively seeking out ways you can bring your strengths and your passions into your 9-5, which begins with sharing those strengths and passions with your team.

When you notice an area for improvement or a project you would find fulfilling, speak up and put your assets into practice. It will serve both you and your team in the long run, and it will say volumes about your unique potential to your manager.

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4. Be the person everyone turns to in a crisis. 

Can you triage problems? Quickly come up with solutions? Then stand up the next time work gets crazy or a major deliverable hits a snag.

When you can stay calm and come up with solutions under pressure, people will gravitate toward you, and your manager will take notice. People trust people who trust themselves.

Meaning: if you approach crises with confidence, you’re likely to be the first person others nominate to take lead, whether formally (a promotion, for example) or informally for team projects and client pitches.

This mode of leadership is one of the most easily recognizable success habits you can adopt, which makes it highly impactful for increasing your visibility at work and aligning with stakeholders: both of which are key career advancement strategies.

You might be thinking “but what if I’m not an expert problem-solver?” Fair question, but consider this: your entire job is a series of solving problems. It doesn’t matter what you do. That’s what employees offer to an org: solutions.

Being a confident problem-solver for others is a skill anyone can foster by simply sharing the ideas that come naturally to you. It’s made even easier when you have a working understanding of the team dynamic (again, re: #1) and are already thinking critically about the bigger picture.

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The Bottom Line

It all comes down to confidence and knowledge. The more you invest in learning about your org and learning about yourself, the more equipped you will feel to take the lead and offer your skills and insights to colleagues.

Better yet: the respect you will gain from embodying these leadership skills is highly appealing to stakeholders (who hold the power to offer you opportunities, including promotions).