Some professionals never aspire to leadership positions or any significant forms of responsibility. They want to do their jobs, be left alone, gather a paycheck, and live with minimal stress and obligations.
But this isn’t true for most people. The typical professional has dreams and aspirations: they want to move up the career ladder, face new challenges, raise the stakes, and ultimately enter positions where they can take charge and steer others towards success.
This process isn’t easy, though, as it requires more than just their personal development: it also requires that their superiors acknowledge evolution. You can’t climb a ladder if the rungs above you are inaccessible. You can become extremely proficient in all skills necessary to be an outstanding leader, but it won’t matter if no one notices it.
Let’s say you’re in that position of aiming to progress your career (perhaps you’re motivated by the economic woes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic). How can you proceed in a way that will catch the attention of your coworkers and superiors? That’s what we’re going to look at in this post.
Here are some core tips for showing off your developing leadership skills:
Improve your work across the board
Consider your current work ethic. A central element of leadership is setting an excellent example for everyone who works underneath you. If the leader isn’t putting in a lot of time and effort, then why should everyone else? One of the mistakes aspiring leaders can make is that they focus too strongly on skills that are specific to leadership and assume that their current responsibilities don’t matter.
As a female keynote speaker, I work with a lot of emerging female leaders. Sometimes they lack self confidence to ask for a promotion. Confidence grows and self doubt shrinks when you learn to set an example for others. People will start to come to you for answers. Leading others will come naturally.
Regardless of which department you work in, then, you can’t just skate along on the same old results. You need to ensure that you’re doing everything you can for every aspect of your job: starting early, finishing late, pushing to reach new standards, and seeking constructive criticism at every turn. Showing mastery of your current position will show that you’re ready for change —and consistency is vital for effective leaders.
Suggest a side project
Only asking to be put in charge of your team is unlikely to get you anywhere, because it’s a big leap in responsibility. So how can you show that you’re capable of leadership before you’ve moved into a significant leadership position? It’s simple: you can lead a side project for the business. You could take ownership of the project, deciding what needs to be done and having some hours of your coworkers’ time to allocate to its completion.
As for what type of project, it depends on the nature of the company. You could take charge of a new content marketing campaign, for instance, ultimately devising a strategy for a series of promotional blog posts. Alternatively, you could run a pop-up shop to prove that you have what it takes to represent the company in public. What matters is that you come up with a pitch that won’t cost too much money: the cheaper it is, the better your chance will be.
I'm a keynote speaker at many SHRM conferences throughout the year. They have wonderful resources for leadership development.
Actively support your coworkers.
Another part of being a leader is actively helping your team members, and you don’t need to wait until you’re in a leadership position to do that. You can get started right away as a way to prove your broader commitment to the company and your ability to work productively alongside others. How are your coworkers faring? What are their struggles? Their challenges?
You do need to be extremely careful with this step, admittedly, because you can quickly come across as overstepping the mark. For the time being, you don’t have the kind of authority that would allow you to interject with impunity — but you can make it clear to everyone that you’re there to help out and are willing to find the time to make their lives easier (there are plenty of ways to do this). Be supportive, and your superiors will surely notice your capabilities.
Propose operational improvements
Great leaders don’t just protect the status quo and ensure that it operates reasonably smoothly: they think carefully about how things are done, and they come up with new ways to work that can get things done more quickly and efficiently. In short, they contribute superior value to their companies by altering their foundations (and set themselves up as invaluable assets in the process).
Well, you might not be a leader yet, but you can still make it clear that you’re determined to make the company better in the long run by identifying possible operational improvements. How could processes be adjusted? Could specific departments be expanded or contracted to cut down on waste? Maybe some new tools or resources could be introduced to freshen things up.
Come up with a financially-justifiable plan for free, and you’ll prove your loyalty to the business.
Some people just aren’t cut out for leadership, no matter how much they desire it, and you need to pull out all the stops to demonstrate that you’re not one of them. By using some or all of the tips we’ve covered here, you can offer some compelling evidence that you have all the leadership prowess needed to justify promotion (even if only down the line), setting yourself up for a bright future.