7 Ways to Sharpen Your Leadership Skills
Very few people describe themselves as natural born leaders. It takes buckets of self-confidence and a dash of moxie to get others to follow your lead. But you don't exactly need to grab the microphone to exude leadership. Leadership is a skill; one that can be learned and developed. Strong leadership skills will help you score more responsibility at work, which means higher chances of a promotion, increased salary, and growth opportunity overall. So, if you want to give your boss more reasons to promote you, consider doing at least one of the following each work day:
1. Foster a reputation for being helpful and resourceful. You don't have to know how to do everything to be seen as a leader, but you do need to be a problem solver. Keep your eyes and ears perked to be aware of what's going on, even in other departments—who's the best person for graphics? Or who's the most accessible person in the IT department? When a newbie co-worker or manager asks for help, you'll know exactly who to direct them to, which will solidify your status as someone who knows the ropes.
"Top performers are widely known and respected by others not because of their frequent contact, charm or likability, but because they help others solve their problems," says David Maxfield, co-author of New York Times' national bestseller Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success. "By doing so, they become invaluable resources." Aim to be helpful; knowing about your surrounding resources is a great start.
2. Be a self-starter. At the very least, you should become the go-to, indispensable person in your little corner of the company. Do whatever it takes—whether it's classes at night, attending conferences, or starting a blog about your field—to become a super authority on your job.
The key here is to kick into self-starter mode—a major prerequisite to gaining leader status. It's not just about doing the job you're assigned, it's about starting your own side projects to keep practicing and mastering your skill.
3. Mentor someone newer. If you see a co-worker who is clearly struggling, point them in the right direction if you can. After all, what better way to practice leadership than to let someone follow your lead? The trick here is to be an effective communicator. Their success is a testament to yours, and at least one person will now see you as a leader. You have to start somewhere.
4. Get on the radar by networking. Networking is important because it'll not only place you on the map but it'll also help you achieve tip No. 1. Joanne Cleaver, author of the upcoming book The Career Lattice and president of the strategic communication consulting firm Wilson-Taylor Associates, says you need alliances with co-workers who can pull in the resources and expertise you'll need to get a project done. "People often assume that they must network up in the organization, but in this era of professional social networking, lateral networks are just as crucial," she says.
5. Lead collaboratively, not cutthroat. Leadership is centered on teamwork rather than going it alone. If you're only out for yourself, why would anyone follow your lead? A good leader recognizes others' strengths and harnesses them to orchestrate a collaborative project.
6. Gain your colleagues' trust. How do you gain trust in the workplace? Simple: Don't give others a reason to be mistrustful of you. This one is really a matter of being ethical. Don't lie, cheat, steal, or throw anyone under the bus to get ahead. Following the Golden Rule will go a long way in earning trust with your work mates.
7. Encourage others through positivity. Leadership requires strong, positive energy—people gravitate toward positivity. Tony Schwartz is the president and chief executive officer of The Energy Project, a company that teaches people how to have a more engaged workforce. In a guest blog post for the Harvard Business Review, Schwartz writes about how leaders should "Serve as Chief Energy Officers—to free and fuel us to bring the best of ourselves to work every day."
Leaders exude positivity, and it's this energy that helps fuel everyone to do their best. This goes back to being solution-oriented and resourceful. A can-do, pleasant attitude is much more respected than a negative one.