to become a leader, act like a leader

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If you want to become a leader, don’t wait for a fancy title or corner office.

Begin to act, think, and communicate like a leader long before the promotion. Even if you’re still several levels down and someone else is calling all the shots, there are numerous ways to demonstrate your potential and carve your path to the role you ultimately want. Not only does the planning help you develop the necessary skills and leadership presence, it also increases your chances of getting promoted because people will already recognize you as a leader.

The key is to take on opportunities to demonstrate leadership now, regardless of your tenure or role, claims Amy Gallo.  In her Harvard Business Review article, she provides tips for doing just that.

  1. Excel in your current role – No matter how big your ambitions, you still have to deliver results today to be considered for future opportunities. Focus on the present as much as, or more than the future, so no one can ever question your performance.
  2. Help your boss succeed – You have to execute on your boss’s priorities too, and if you can make your boss look good, you’ll look good. Find out what keeps your manager up at night and propose solutions to those problems. When asked to help with something, lean towards saying yes.
  3. Seize leadership opportunities – Look for every opportunity, no matter how small, to demonstrate leadership to signal you have potential. This will give others a taste of what you’ll be like in a more senior role, and these activities send the signal you aspire to leadership.
  4. Look for problems others don’t know exist or aren’t willing to take on – Every organization has needs nobody is paying attention to, or people are actively ignoring. When you take on a task that no one else is willing to do, you prove your potential and make yourself stand out.
  5. Prove your leadership skillsThere’s a fine line between ambition and arrogance – don’t cross it. Aim for humble confidence – showing appropriate modesty in your role, while having the self-assurance to know you will rise to the next level.
  6. Be cautious when sharing your ambitions – It’s appropriate to raise your ambitions with your manager if you have a trusting, solid relationship, but make sure to frame them in a way that focuses on what’s best for the company. Gain feedback on how you can continue to make strategic contributions to the business.
  7. Find role models – Learn from others’ successes and failures. Find individuals who have the roles you want and learn from them. Identify behaviors you can emulate while being true to yourself, but don’t forget to look at those who are stuck in their career as a lesson of what not to do.
  8. Build relationships – You need to build supporters across the organization — people who are aware of the work you’re doing. Treat every situation as an opportunity to demonstrate the value you bring to the company and your knowledge of the business. Always be prepared to answer the question, “What are you up to?”

What other tips would you include on this list?

By michelle m. smith, CPIM, CRP
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