If you’re not being a leader because of your title then you’re missing out. I’d like to think that I’m a leader even though I’ve never been a manager or executive and haven’t had an official “leader title”. The point is that your level, be it a new hire or seasoned veteran, should not dictate whether you bring leadership to the table.
Leadership is one of the most important intangible skills because it takes a combination of the others (communication, positivity, etc.) to possess it. During hiring I look for leadership skills and other intangibles over technical skills because, in my opinion, it’s harder for someone to learn those skills vs the “0’s and 1’s.”
The book The World Is Flat is about economics, but you could also apply that title to leadership. Businesses are increasingly going to a flat management style. This is putting more onus on individual contributors than ever before. I think this is a good thing. Too many layers creates bureaucracy. It also means, like it or not, you’re going to have to step up your leadership game. Better to start now than to wait around.
Here are some ideas on things you can do to further your leadership skills:
- ALWAYS have a positive attitude. I can’t stress this enough and it’s personally my #1 leadership skill. I’ve been around too many people with jaded attitudes and it’s just awful.
- Do good work. It’s that simple. If you’re putting out the best work and are the most efficient team member others will recognize that. It may also lead to promotions.
- Have answers to questions that no one else does. This is not easy but it is possible. If you’re always the one with answers management will go to you above anyone else.
- Think outside the box. This is a bit of a cliche, I know, but it is true. If you do things only because that’s the way they’ve always been done then you’re not innovating.
- Innovate. You can do this by learning a new skill-set or bringing new ideas to the table.
- Lean on someone you feel is a leader and learn from their habits.
Update 3/30/16: I came across an article on linked in called How TO Be A Leader When You’re Not The Boss. It was written by Ilya Pozin, the founder of Pluto TV and writer for Forbes. I was extremely surprised by this article for two reasons: One, it was a nearly identical article to this post, and two, in the article is a survey done by Waggl that says the top Human Capital priority of 2016 is “Leadership at all levels” – the exact title of this post. My post was written in Oct. 2015. The survey was done in Dec 2015 and Ilya’s article written 3/2016. It’s gratifying to know that my thinking is in line with Ilya’s! 🙂