Leadership is such a buzz word. When hear the title "leader" it’s easy to immediately think it means manager, though these words are definitely not synonymous.
Tell me you don't know a manager whose leadership skills are below par?
And I'm sure you could also think of a leader who isn't necessarily supervising people.
The thing with leadership is that it's more about action than title. You can be a leader at any level, from entry-level to the C-suite.
Below are 8 ways you can cultivate your leadership skills to become commended by your peers and noticed by the higher-ups.
1. Lift others up
Praising others is sometimes hard for us to do if we don’t have a personal connection with someone. We’re so used to hearing “constructive criticism” as our feedback loop, that we become scared and jaded when we hear someone call out areas that we’re excelling in.
Remember that calling out someone’s successes does not at all discount your own. If you can help others see where they excel, they’ll be more willing to trust you and help out when you need an extra hand. This is all teambuilding at its finest.
2. Quiet your voice so that others can be heard
Even if you know the answer, it’s important to hear someone else’s perspective from time to time. Wait to jump in to a conversation - even if that means counting to ten in your head - to see if someone else has something to say.
This is especially relevant for the problem-solvers out there who love contributing to a solution. And when it is time to chime in, first take the time to ask yourself, “Will what I’m about to say add something of value to the conversation?” Speaking just to speak doesn’t add bonus points in the boardroom.
3. Reach out to those you admire
When I first launched my business, it was easy to fall into the comparison trap. I felt like I’d never be as good as so-and-so. I was envious of the amazing Instagram accounts of other coaches. But then one day I decided to cut the crap and actually email one coach in particular whose approach I really admired. And surprise of the century – she wrote back immediately with the kindest, most personal reply ever.
Rather than defaulting to jealousy, what if you could default to admiration?
Just recently after I launched my new website an email came in from another entrepreneur. She commented on how much she enjoyed my content and said – “I just wanted to say hi and let you know that another entrepreneur out there thinks you are killing it.”
Do you know how much that email meant to me? Since then we’ve met up in person and have totally connected on a personal and professional level. Be that person for someone else.
4. Really listen; don’t just wait to respond
As a culture we’ve become so accustomed to preparing our responses in a conversation that we don’t really listen and react to what someone’s saying. I’ll admit it, often I have to actively stop myself from interrupting and saying what’s on my mind before someone’s finished talking.
Effective leaders listen much more than they speak.
Rather than composing what a rebuttal in your head, tune in to what someone’s saying. Don’t worry, you’ll still get a chance to reply, but you’ll maintain a connection much easier than the ping-pong effect that comes with rushing to get your word in.
5. Be open to learning
Whether you know it or not, you can learn something from everyone at work – including those above and below you in the org chart.
Some of the best advice I received at a previous job was from an administrative assistant who had worked in the office for 25 years. Had I written her off because of she wasn’t a senior executive, I would have missed the chance to gain perspective on long-term career growth, the battles worth fighting, and those that aren’t worth the energy.
Ask questions and involve those who typically don’t have a voice. It will be so worth it.
6. Ask questions rather than always providing solutions
It’s human nature to want to fix things. That’s why we’re quick to provide an answer when posed with a challenge, rather than taking the time to fully understand the situation.
By asking questions, you can approach opportunities with the information you need to set out a plan. In the process you’ll involve your team, identify who can fill each role, and define what success looks like in the end. This leads to more responsible and inclusive decision making, which in the end will naturally position you as a leader rather than a dictator.
7. Expect the best rather than assuming the worst
Do you find yourself anticipating the worst-case scenario? Have you found yourself anxious to open an email because you think you know what’s inside? Do yourself a favor and assume you’re going to get good news rather than bad.
This is especially important with email communication. It’s incredibly difficult to read emotion through emails, so stop trying to assign it. One way to do this is to re-read an email multiple times before replying. Your first reaction may not be on point because of what you’re anticipating. Always give the benefit of the doubt until you’re told otherwise.
8. Stand behind your team rather than pointing fingers when things go wrong
Who ever stood behind a leader that said, “It wasn’t me!”?
It’s so not worth it to preserve your reputation if it means placing the blame on your team. Doing this doesn’t prove much other than communicating that you don’t want to be part of the solution. Rather than preserving your reputation, focus on what can be done to remedy the solution. Band together with your colleagues, because one of the best ways to team build is to overcome a tough situation with dignity and grace.
Leadership doesn't always means taking charge. Sometimes it means stepping back and encouraging others to step up. Who’s a leader you admire that possesses these traits?