When I started my career I naturally gravitated towards leadership. I learned early in my career in the Air Force that leadership was much more than the position you hold. I learned that it has far more to do with your ability to influence others to accomplish an objective. As an enlisted airmen with very little position, I saw myself becoming a leader. I was put in positions that allowed me to become a person of influence. Later when I was placed in leadership positions, what I had learned during my time in the Air Force really prepared me to lead effectively. If you aspire to be a leader, now is the time to start developing the skills that you will need in order to be an effective and respected leader.
Here are 5 tips that I think are important for anyone who aspires to lead but may not know where or how to start.
“Character makes trust possible, and trust is the foundation of leadership” ~John Maxwell
1.) LEAD YOURSELF FIRST
People are always watching what you do and how you react in different situations. If you want to lead others you must first master leading yourself. By setting a good example you show people that you are credible. Credibility and trust is the foundation of leadership. As John Maxwell says, “Character makes trust possible, and trust is the foundation of leadership”. Part of leading yourself means that you take your personal development into your own hands. You must be purposeful in ensuring that you are developing your skills as a leader. You can’t develop others if you aren’t growing and developing yourself first. An empty vessel has nothing to provide. Fill yourself up so that you can give out of the abundance of what you have learned. Some people are natural leaders; however, they too must hone their skills in order to be the best leader. No matter where you fall on the leadership spectrum, there is always room to improve yourself. Commit to being a lifelong learner. Some examples of things you can do to develop yourself include: read books, attend seminars, join organizations (and serve on the board), seek out stretch assignments in your current role, and/or find a mentor to help you. The fruit of a great leader is to develop other leaders and you can’t develop someone your current state of development . So, if you want to someday develop other leaders, you must first ensure that you are developing yourself.
2.) LEAD WHERE YOU ARE
As you lead yourself other people will take notice. Don’t wait for a position to lead, seize the opportunity when it comes. A lot of times the opportunity to lead will come way before the position shows up. It’s in those moments when you have the chance to influence your team to adopt a new change, the moment when you refuse to take part in office grumblings, it’s during those times when you bring solutions to your manager, or when you help the team focus on getting a tough project completed. Lead where you are and don’t worry about the position. In order to lead you have to take action and there is no time like the present to get started.
3.) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH LEADERS
If you want to lead then you must associate with leaders. It has been said that you are the sum of the 5 closest people in your life. Build your team with people who you aspire to be like. People who can grow you and add value to your life as you add value to their’s. Find people who have accomplished what you are trying to accomplish and can help you navigate the road ahead. Create a team of key individuals who you can rely on for advice and guidance. People who aren’t afraid to ruffle your feathers and push you out of your comfort zone.
4.) SHARPEN THOSE LISTENING SKILLS
Leadership is not about being the loudest in the room and always having something to say. Contrary to that notion, leadership has a lot to do with listening. How can you solve problems if you don’t take the time to listen and find out what problems need to be fixed. Great leaders know how to pull results out of their team. You don’t have to be the one with the answer. If you want to become an effective leader, start by becoming a better listener. You will start to see things in a different way when you step back and listen to what is going on. When you listen you gain a different perspective on things, which allows you to know how to navigate problems and situations more effectively.
5.) BE WILLING TO SERVE OTHERS
Leaders should aspire to serve. If you want to be a leader because you want a fancy title (please see #2) or you want the notoriety that comes with being in “the top” spot, then your priorities are all wrong. People are much more willing to follow people who can show a genuine interest in their well being. It is true that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If you want to be a leader who people willingly follows, work on serving others. John Maxwell calls it the leadership law of addition. Leaders should add value to the people who follow them and to the organizations at which they lead. Leadership is a privilege and should not be entered into without understanding the impact you will have on the lives of other people. Be intentional about ensuring that you impact people in a positive way.
What others tips would you give someone who is interested in leading?