Think back on your favorite manager or boss you’ve had. What set them apart? Chances are, they were a good listener, able to build rapport and inspire others. They knew how to be a leader at work, instead of just a boss. And you can learn this skill, too.
We’ve been conditioned to think that leadership at work can only be attained through a position of power. The truth is, real leadership can come from anywhere and can be developed as a skill. It’s not your job title that allows for strong leadership – it’s the commitment to creating positive change in yourself and in others.
Being a leader at work is a heavy hat to wear, but it can benefit you in remarkable ways. When a group of people look up to you – whether you’re a leader in an official capacity or not – your confidence is bound to surge. Instead of grinding along waiting for each day to end, you’ll extract greater results from the same hours or minutes, cut through the clutter of to-dos and focus on how to get real results.
What is true leadership at work?
You can probably think of great leaders, and not just in business: Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Nelson Mandela and Gandhi all fit the bill. So what’s the difference between how to be a leader at work and in other situations? Being a leader at work involves a specific set of skills that anyone can develop with practice.
Employees often look out for themselves and potentially their immediate coworkers; they certainly don’t have the company’s values at heart. While this may not seem that important, you’d be surprised how rare it is to find an employee who can verbalize the goals and beliefs of the organization they work for. That’s why leaders are more than employees – they embody the vision of the company. A true leader has a deep understanding of the company’s mission and believes in its core values.
Leaders don’t get far if others won’t follow them. When an employee keeps the cultural mainstays of the company at the forefront of all they do, they are in a better position to influence others. This is often where leadership at work begins – not in an executive office, but out in the bullpen or in the field: making connections and creating goodwill that is based on a genuine interest in others.
– Emotional intelligence
This is the ability to understand others’ feelings and reciprocate in kind, while also controlling your own emotions. Emotional intelligence requires deep self-awareness, social awareness, empathy and humility – but it can be developed and practiced. In one study, 71 percent of managers valued emotional intelligence (EQ) more highly than intellectual intelligence (IQ), and experts agree that a high EQ correlates directly with being a leader at work.
How to be a leader at work
You don’t need to be an executive or a manager to learn how to become a leader at work. No matter what walk of life you come from or where you sit in the company, you can follow these steps to learn how to be a leader at work.
1. Focus on yourself
Being a leader at work begins on an individual level. After all, the only thing you can truly control in your life is you. Before asking for a promotion or searching for management opportunities, first look at yourself. Do you display the skills and traits necessary in a good leader? If not, are you willing to put the time and effort into developing them? Commit to CANI – constant and never-ending improvement – for both soft skills, like communication, and hard skills, like learning new tools.
2. Add value
When you’re thinking about what skills to work on, focus on what will add the most value to your organization. Does your company need someone with a certain certification or knowledge of a specific software? Would it be more helpful to work on your email writing skills or to become an amazing public speaker for client presentations? Exceed expectations, demonstrate your hunger and your potential, and you’ll automatically be noticed when it’s time for promotions.
3. Work on your emotional fitness
Extraordinary leaders bring certainty into uncertain environments. That doesn’t mean that you have all the answers, but you do have the inner conviction that you can find the answer and move forward. The key to emotional fitness is being ready for anything. When you bring creativity, humor and curiosity to stressful situations, others will naturally turn to you when things become difficult or chaotic.
4. Practice self-awareness
It isn’t just businesses themselves that have a brand identity. Each employee has their own “work brand” based on their strengths and weaknesses and the best ways they can contribute to the company. It’s essential to be aware of your work brand in order to develop your leadership at work. The best leaders are the most self-aware. They’re always asking questions about their performance, and they take feedback seriously and professionally. Talk to your manager or even your colleagues and start applying your strengths today.
5. Adopt a growth mindset
True leaders also use their self-awareness and insight to consistently challenge themselves to grow. You view criticism and setbacks not as catastrophic roadblocks, but as a way to improve yourself and your situation. You’re constantly honing your skills and developing new ones. This is called a growth mindset, and it’s high on the list of how to be a leader at work. When you are constantly striving to better yourself, you will be able to give and become more than you ever thought possible, defying the odds, setting a new standard and stepping up to create the future you want.
6. Support others
A true leader is a great facilitator. Do you encourage others to speak up? Do you publicly recognize them when they do an excellent job? You look for greatness in your colleagues and are pleased to listen to what they have to say rather than offering your opinion over and over again. If you disagree with them, you discuss it in a constructive way. You excel at building trust in the workplace and creating a rapport with others. Because a true leader understands that when people are rewarded for progress and honored consistently, their drive to become better increases as well.
7. Think strategically
Being a leader at work requires resourcefulness – in achieving your personal goals and your goals as a team. This doesn’t mean doing more with less. It means thinking strategically and always being goal-oriented. It means having a plan to get you to your goals and having the determination to enact it. For the team, it means recognizing the potential in everyone and knowing how to delegate to make the best use of your team’s strengths. Strategic thinking skills are a way to add the most value to your organization – the ultimate goal of leadership at work.
8. Be innovative
Thriving companies are innovative. It doesn’t matter if you work for a tech startup or a pizza restaurant – organizations that find a way to differentiate themselves with fresh ideas are the ones that will survive. If you’re wondering how to become a leader at work, look no further than your own imagination: Contributing creative ideas that push the envelope and improve your company’s bottom line is one of the best strategies.
9. Take on more responsibility
Once you’ve developed your communication skills, mastered delegating and are contributing innovative ideas, you’re ready to level up your game. You’ve already got your team working at maximum efficiency, so you’ll have some time to learn new things and take on more responsibility. At this point, management is sure to have noticed your hard work and dedication, so don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The sky’s the limit once you’re consistently practicing how to be a leader at work.
10. Surround yourself with greatness
Tony says that, “Proximity is power. If you want to have an extraordinary life, surround yourself with people who make you better.” That’s why many successful individuals credit having a mentor with helping them achieve their dreams. If you want to demonstrate leadership at work, consider getting a Results Coach or attending virtual leadership events like Business Mastery. Stay inspired and feed your mind by reading quotes, articles or biographies about your favorite leaders. Remember, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. There is always room for more growth.