You Don’t Have to be a Leader to Lead

You just got your first job after your college graduation and now you’re working an entry-level position. Working your way up the ranks will be slow but hopefully steady, but for now it seems impossible to make yourself stand out as a leader within your organization. The idea that a leader is someone who holds an authority position is a common misconception. In fact, leaders exist at all levels of a company. Regardless of whether you supervise others or not, you still have the potential to be a leader. Leadership is not about a title, it’s about the positive influence you have on those around you.

Here are a few ways to stand out as a leader without the title of one:

Use Your Soft Skills

Being flexible is the key to being successful in any workplace, but being able to accept the fact that there may be a better way to do something or that you have made a mistake will make you much more desirable to work with on a team. Changing your behavior or method of doing something to fit the way that your company or manager expects, despite your hesitations, can be beneficial. This is not to say that if you see something being done in a way that is ineffective you should not speak up, but it is important to be versatile and willing to embrace change. Communication is another important skill to have. Effective leaders clearly communicate with everyone they interact with. They say yes when they mean yes and no when they mean no so that they don’t overextend themselves. Their feedback is clear and they set expectations for those they work with and for themselves. Communication is the key to interacting well with others and will greatly benefit your work relationships.

Maintain Relationships

Speaking of relationships, it is important for leaders to get along well with people in order to have a positive influence on them. People work best under leadership that they feel like cares for them as a person more than an employee. Get to know the people you work with to learn about the personal lives, strengths, weaknesses and skills of your team. Treat others the way you want to be treated (I know it’s cheesy but it’s true). The more trust and respect you gain from others, the more they will be willing to work collaboratively with and for you.

Take Risks

Followers listen to directions and do as they are told, but leaders are the ones who drive their teams and companies to major change and results. History has proven time and time again that innovative solutions and creative ideas are the ones that are the most successful. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries with your thoughts and speak up when presented with the opportunity to share. Leaders should be willing to tackle the hard problems that will ultimately help the big picture, so brainstorm ideas that are out of the box.

Stay Positive

No one likes a grumpy or mean boss, so why be one? Even when faced with problems or crises, keep a level head and don’t complain. When you or your coworkers face a challenge, try to generate solutions instead of just dumping your problem on somebody else to figure out. Acknowledge others when you see them succeeding, and give them encouragement when they may be struggling to do something. Being on people’s good side will allow you to have connections that may help you elevate your position.

There are plenty of ways to stand out in your current work environment; don’t let your experience, position or age hinder you from your leadership potential!

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