The greatest myth of leadership is that it requires a distinct title, role, or tenure. You can practice and implement leadership skills in any role—even if you don’t oversee a team. How to be a leader at work boils down to how you influence others.
Not only can you wield influence in any role, but leadership skills are malleable. If you hope to move up the ladder or simply want to be more effective in overseeing your team, there are many ways to improve on being a great leader at work.
Wielding Influence in Any Role
People tend to believe that a title comes with authority and the ability to lead people. They equate titles to leadership; the higher your title, the greater your leadership ability. In reality, true leadership isn’t about power or titles. Leadership is about influencing, motivating, and helping people, regardless of your role.
Consider the receptionist at the front of your office. They have tremendous influence over every guest who comes into your office—how they’re taken care of, how they’re greeted, and how they’re treated. Your receptionist impacts the beginning of every customer’s journey with your organization, setting the tone for how other people feel about your business. A fancy title might get you some respect for a brief moment, but the interactions you have with people truly determine the level of influence you have with them—and therefore your ability to lead.
Identifying Leadership Skills
Leadership is a combination of many skills, not a single trait or personality type. You can develop your leadership skills to become a better leader, even if you don’t view yourself as a leader today. Along with practicing a strong work ethic and putting in the effort to lead by example, work on the following areas to improve your ability to influence—and lead—others at work.
To effectively use your influence, you must work at being an effective communicator. If you can’t clearly articulate your ideas and expectations, provide constructive feedback, or engage in active listening, you’re going to struggle as a leader. I often tell colleagues that communication is 10 percent what you say and 90 percent how you say it. That “how you say it” is an essential skill because it determines how well you wield your influence.
Building two-way, respectful relationships allows you to influence others, and responsible leadership requires the ability to genuinely connect with others. Strengthen your emotional intelligence, be willing to be vulnerable, and seek first to understand others—not to be understood. As a leader, strive to focus on team outcomes over individual successes.
Being a leader is not a title but a mindset. The best leaders have a growth mindset accompanied by a willingness to learn and grow, belief in their potential, and reliance on self-direction—skills that aid them in recognizing and exerting their influence. Additionally, resilience and adaptability help leaders excel in uncomfortable environments.
Honing Leadership Skills with Tools
When it comes to refining your skills, you’re not on your own! All kinds of tools are available to help you strengthen your leadership skill set.
- Online assessment tools: Applications, questionnaires, and other online measurement tools examine everything from emotional intelligence and self-awareness to goal-setting strategies and personality tendencies.
- Executive coaching: Whether you’re years into your CEO journey or new to your first managerial role, an executive coach can provide you guidance, support, and perhaps most importantly, honest feedback.
- Leadership books: Read leadership books to learn important skills, foster professional development, and discover impactful anecdotes and real-world stories of leadership in action.
- Mindset management: Strive to approach your work and life from a growth mindset. Believe you can develop intelligence and embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as a path to mastery, learn from criticism, and find inspiration in others’ success.
- Personal relationships: The thoughts, actions, and mindsets of the people you associate with can influence how you think and act—so choose your company wisely. Surround yourself with inspired leaders whom you can learn from.
Taking the Next Step
There are unlimited ways to work on how to be a leader at work, and refining your leadership skills has no finish line. No matter where you are on your career journey—early in your career, middle management, or a seasoned CEO—there are simple steps you can take to become a stronger leader at work.
Questions to Consider
- How would you assess your leadership ability?
- What skills do you possess that exemplify leadership?
- What skills do you need to work on?
- Who are the leaders in your organization?
I’d love to help you embrace your role as a leader. To learn more about leadership advising, coaching services, and additional resources, contact me.