How To Look Like A Leader When You’re Not
By William Arruda
The paradox – you won’t get promoted to a leadership role if you don’t have leadership experience. But how do you get leadership experience when you’re only cast in a supporting role? Even if you’re in an entry-level position, you need to demonstrate leadership skills consistently and overtly. The key is to look and act like a leader even if you don’t have the title or the staff. Here’s how.
Master the mindset.
If you want to be seen as a leader, think like a leader. Leaders create a vision and inspire people to follow them. Look far beyond your do-list to think bigger about your role and your contribution to the organization. At the end of each day, ask yourself: How much leadership work did I do today?
Another way to get into the mindset is to imagine yourself in a leadership role. Rewrite your bio wearing the hat of a leader. What would you add, and what would you delete? When you’re done, you’ll have something specific to envision and live up to. Read it regularly so you remind yourself of who you are as a leader and to inspire yourself to lead every day.
Mimic your mentor.
What? You don’t have a mentor? Find a mentor at your company – someone who is senior to you and projects the leadership style you would like to adopt. Then become a keen observer. Ask if you can shadow her for a day. How does she allocate her time? How does she handle challenging situations? What behaviors and traits does she exhibit that you can integrate into your daily routine? The great thing about a mentor who is in your company is that they understand a lot about the organization and about your potential paths. Ask her what she thinks you could do in your current work environment to demonstrate leadership qualities. If you want to get noticed for your leadership, make your leader-like actions visible to those around you. Pick three leadership skills you can demonstrate – for example, expressing appreciation for a job well done, spending time with stakeholders, and taking risks. Then integrate those into your daily activities.
Meetings give you an opportunity – often in front of lots of decision makers – to stand out from your colleagues. The conference room is often the place where future leaders are identified by senior executives. So make the most of these gatherings. Don’t squander your chance to impress stakeholders. Prepare for the meeting in advance. Identify three things you want to contribute that will showcase your leadership thinking. Show up on time. Then demonstrate how valuable you are. If you aren’t sure what to say, or you don’t have a lot of knowledge on the topic, ask a powerful question – one that shows you’re thinking like a leader.
Market your message.
You don’t need to have people working for you in order to become a thought-leader – someone who is known and respected for their expertise. Leadership doesn’t always require a staff of people. If you have special expertise along with your specific point of view, you can stand out from your peers by expressing that point of view and building a following of fans. Decide which media you will use, choosing one that will be visible to decision makers and influencers. Then regularly publish your thought-leadership content on the topic – demonstrating your ability to inspire others and blaze a trail.
Make your mark.
Identify something that will help you make your mark and stand out from everyone else who does what you do. You could take a big risk, knowing that when it is successful the payoff will be recognition. Or you could volunteer to lead a project (especially the one that must be done but no one is willing to take on). Or make a proposal to spearhead a change initiative that will have a positive impact on the organization. Leaders are change agents – actively seeking out new ways of supporting the company mission.
Position yourself for leadership now so you’ll be prepared when you land that promotion.
William Arruda is the cofounder of CareerBlast and author of the complimentary e-Book – The 9 Predictors of Promotion