So, you want to be a leader, and you’re seeking out advice on how to do that. First off, congrats! You have the right mindset. The fact that you want to get better and actively seek methods to improve shows that you have the ability to “level up” and be that leader. That’s step one, but it takes more than just a quest for knowledge to become the one that people look to for direction, support and solutions. There are many elements to leadership that make people complete leaders, and I’ll share some with you here.
1- Always lead by example. You have to show your peers that you know how to do the job, no matter what that job entails. How can you lead someone if you don’t understand what their tasks entail? How will your peers trust your direction if they aren’t confident that you actually know what you’re talking about? Make sure you excel in your position. Build credibility, and always remember, your peers are taking notice.
2- Get comfortable being uncomfortable. You only evolve when being put into situations that force you to use your brain, innovate and change. Challenge yourself. Push yourself out of that comfort zone into more difficult tasks. Leaders never rest on their laurels, and are always improving every day.
3- Surround yourself with successful people. Talk to them and figure out how they got where they are. Understand their habits and routines. You’ll start to see many similarities between how they manage their time and prioritize their tasks. Try to borrow the best attribute from each person you meet, internalize it, and make it your own.
4- Become an expert. Learn about your field. Study it every day. Equip yourself to hold a conversation with anyone in the industry. Subscribe to publications about your trade. Complete online courses to enhance your knowledge base. Above all, think things through and gain a true working understanding of how the entire ecosystem functions. You should not have gaps or blind spots in your knowledge. This will help you train and prepare your team members so that they are both capable and trustworthy.
5- Embrace problems head on, and always bring solutions to the table. Many people encounter problems and complain, cry, or run away from them, but really it’s an opportunity for them to step up and be a hero. On top of that, each problem presents a learning moment; What to do to fix it the problem and what NOT to do in the future. Sometimes learning what not to do gives you a better learning experience than anything.
6- Speed. As you get better at your job, you will learn to get faster in all areas. Use that added time capacity to take on more. Don’t waste time, ever. If you do, just remember that someone else is out there, trying to get that position that you want, and chances are they’re working RIGHT NOW.
7- The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Always treat people with respect, regardless of their role or position. Never show your anger. The first person to lose their cool loses the argument. Don’t gossip. Ask people how they’re doing and genuinely listen to their response. Remember names, significant others’ names, birthdays, etc. Those details matter. Nobody wants to follow someone who is shallow, nasty or selfish. People will work harder for you when you make them feel like they are respected and appreciated.
8- Empathize. It’s difficult, but try to put yourself in other people’s shoes. The best leaders understand how their actions make other people feel, and then act accordingly. People generally don’t remember what you did, but they always remember how you made them feel.
9- Motivate and Empower. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to get the most out of your team, and the only way to do that is to find out what motivates them. As you get to know your teammates, uncover why they are who they are, and why they do what they do. Learn what drives them to come to work every day, and give them opportunities to realize that goal. Empower them to control their own destiny, and it’ll be impossible for them to defer accountability on any task.
10- Plan ahead. For the day, week, month, quarter and year. When you wake up in the morning, think through your plan and execute it. This will involve setting goals for the short and long term. Write these goals down, and make sure they’re both measurable and within your control. Once you have these goals and plans established, hold yourself accountable. This is how you make progress and ultimately, win. No great leader approaches challenges without a plan, so you will have to train your team to do this same exercise. For the machine to work at maximum efficiency, all parts need to be functioning correctly.
11- Network. Always ensure a future means of contact. Attend industry events. Stop by that happy hour. Go to that ballgame. Many times, you’ll be tired or not in the mood, but you have to put yourself out there. You are your own brand. When you go out, make friends and keep in touch over LinkedIn, e-mail and text. Avoid only contacting people when you want something. Again, people remember that.
12- Pay it forward. If you can connect people for meetings, interviews, jobs or favors, do it without expecting anything in return. These acts will always come back to help you in the long term, simply because people will enjoy interacting with you. Putting that positive energy into the universe helps us all collectively, and makes the world a better place.
13- Last, but certainly not least, never stop believing in yourself. Have confidence that you will always make good decisions, even when it means admitting you’ve made a mistake. Embrace constructive criticism from successful people, and use those nuggets of knowledge to improve yourself. But, be sure to keep one thing in mind; they’re not always right.