Can I be a leader when I’m not in a management role?
The answer is a definite YES! You don’t have to be a manager to be a leader. Managers have subordinates, leaders have followers. One of the easiest ways to get your own followers is to set the standard for your role. Be the benchmark on which others in your team are measured.
• Do the work, do it well and own the results. It seems obvious, do the work and do it well is something we should all be doing anyway, but remember to own the results. Modesty is desirable, but too much won’t get you anywhere. Strike a happy balance, give credit where credit is due, but also accept credit where it is due. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, just as long as you’re not asking the same question over and over! Asking for help shows you’re not too proud or shy to admit you don’t know everything. Asking questions ensures you do it right first time, rather than making a mistake due to a misjudged decision. Admit to and learn from your mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Elon Musk says “If things are not failing, you are not innovating”. Learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them but do not try and cover them up; you’ll get found out! Be proactive. This is so important. Volunteer for tasks, take the pressure from others but not at the expense of your actual work. Going above and beyond is an early sign of potential leadership. It shows you are keen to learn, enthusiastic and a good team-player. It will also broaden your network.
• Share ideas and ‘sell them’. If you have an idea, share it. Believe in your idea, and yourself (no-one will buy if you’re not genuine) and make sure people understand what impact your idea will have. Deal in fact and do not act emotionally. It’s harder to argue with facts. One person’s emotional reaction will be different to another’s. Appeal to logic and reason.• Respectfully challenge the status quo. If something can be done better, challenge it, but do so gently so as not to appear arrogant, or worse, insulting.• Pay attention to current leader’s techniques. If you work with bad leaders, learn from their mistakes and don’t repeat them. If you work with good leaders, take note of these techniques and try to apply them yourself.• Build your ‘brand’. If you do all of the above, your reputation will look after itself, and your reputation is what will get your foot in the door of a leadership position and when you get there, you’ll find you already have the followers.
It’s never too early to be a leader. Here are some suggestions on ways you can start, from Skills and Development coach, Iain Hunter:
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