Most ambitious professionals are eagerly awaiting a promotion so they can FINALLY step into the leadership role that they've been waiting for. But too often, I hear stories of people that have been passed over for the promotion to management because they don't have enough leadership experience.
"How am I supposed to get the experience without the position?"
This is one of the biggest career missteps I see people make: waiting for the title be become a leader at their company.
The truth is, if you want to become a leader, you need to start leading. The job title is formal authority - it's management. Sure you'll be able to tell people what to do, but that isn't leadership.
Leadership can be done at any level of any company. At its core, it's the ability to create and vision and inspire others to work towards it. You can start doing that today with these surprisingly simple strategies...
Create Proactive Impact
Leaders don't sit around and wait for instruction - and they definitely don't wait for permission.
They get out there and they make things happen.
Your greatest opportunity as an emerging leader at your company is to identify where the nexus of what the company needs and where you can uniquely offer to help grow your team and what you can uniquely offer.
Where those two things meet is your sweet spot.
And once you find that sweet spot, take charge and proactively create unignorable impact on your organization.
Taking the initiative to fill in the gaps, increase efficiency or effectiveness, and create a better team and a better company is a natural and an organic way for you to begin leading from wherever you are.
This can be a formal role or it can be an informal role. When you step into the role as a mentor, and you're providing support and guidance for your teammates, it is naturally going to insert you into the leadership role.
When you are mentoring someone, they are automatically going to be looking up to you. They will look to you for guidance, support, and ideas. Especially when you don't have the formal management role (and the tasks and bandwidth issues that often accompany it).
A great byproduct of mentoring your teammates is not only is it going to help them see you as a leader and put you into that position. It's also going to demonstrate to your manager, and to other members of the leadership team, that you already are a leader within the organization.
Being in leadership really means that you need to be bold and speak up, and that includes sharing your ideas. There are scarce paths to leadership if you aren't even participating in the first place.
As a leader, you want to be one of the first people out of the gate when ideas are being taken or when feedback is being collected within a meeting.
Vocalizing your idea and vision gives other people the opportunity to support you and see what you have to offer. It also allows your entire team to collaborate towards better outcomes and that is exactly the type of thing that strong leaders facilitate.
Best of all, it puts you in control and allows you to take charge of the conversations and go-forward strategies. This helps demonstrate to your leadership that you're really ready for that next level.
This is one of the biggest differences that I see between someone who thinks they're ready for leadership, and someone who really truly is ready for leadership is the ability to prioritize the work that's being undertaken.
As a leader, it's essential for you to be able to determine the importance and the urgency level of any matter or task that is brought to your attention. This is especially important as a manager, because not only are you having to prioritize your own time and attention, you are also going to be prioritizing the time and the attention of your team. (If you need more info on effectively prioritizing, check out this video)
Leaders are laser-focused on the things that are most urgent and most important. This helps you have the highest level of impact possible. Bonus: the more that you're able to demonstrate your ability to do that, the more that you're going to be put into that leadership position.
Expand Your Network of Advocates
If you're someone who has been very focused on getting that formal leadership position, you may have been very focused on building relationships with the people who are the key decision-makers and influencers behind the decision.
But if you want to begin leading without a title, you're also going to be thinking about the people that you are leading - because they actually fit into that network of advocates.
Before you have the title, you will lead by demonstrating your ability to inspire action. The effectiveness of a leader is wholly tied to their ability to hire their team and to invoke action and to take it even a step further.
The more people that talk about your leadership skills and how they see you as a leader and mentor, the better the likelihood you are going to have to actually step into that formal leadership role at work.
Be an Expert
You don't need to be an expert on *all of the things.* You need to be an expert on the things that truly mattered. The more that you differentiate yourself as being an expert on a specific topic, the more people will come to you when they need help or advice on that particular topic, and this helps you emerge as a leader.
Ideally, this really maps back to that first strategy of identifying your impact and focusing in your expertise to what your biggest area of impact is.
Find Opportunities to Stand Out
Leaders do not blend into the crowd. They are out there, they're leading the way.
When you stand out at work, it is going to embody and exemplify all of the strategies that I just mentioned. If you don't really know where to start and how to make yourself stand down at work, check out this post find your standout strategies.