This is the eighth article in our twenty-part series on how to accelerate your career in your twenties and it's all about leadership. There are no doubt people in your workplace that make leading look easy. Those managers and supervisors who can effortlessly direct projects and motivate people to meet deadlines. That’s because part of being a good leader is acting well under pressure and being able to handle the responsibility of crucial deadlines. Chances are, these people in your company have been honing these skills for decades, so where does that leave you as a twenty-something who’s still relatively new to their job? Here’s a secret: you don’t need to be in a superior position of authority to be a leader.
What is leadership?
Some managers are born leaders, and others have to work hard at it for years. There are countless employees out there who have incredible leadership qualities, but aren’t in a position where they would necessarily be recognised or appreciated. Let’s be clear: leadership isn’t a job title, it’s an attitude. Leadership is about showing respect as well as commanding it. It’s about embracing ideals and principles and sticking to them, and being a rock for your fellow colleagues during times of crisis. While it’s true that some of these traits will be easier to adapt in certain roles within your organisation, there’s no reason you can’t start taking small steps toward becoming a leader.
A good piece of advice we always hear is to imagine you already have the job you want and act accordingly. Being a leader is no different. You don’t pass an exam to become a leader or get it included with a promotion - you just have to start thinking like a leader and making decisions.
What kind of leader do you want to be?
Some leaders can lead in any situation, whereas others are more suited to a particular style of leadership. Early on in your career you’ll be able to figure out what kind of leader you are, and what kind of leader you want to be. Nothing is set in stone. Do you want to be a hands on leader, taking the wheel and driving projects head on? Perhaps you’d rather be more of an overseer and let individuals in your team exercise their natural talents. Many of these choices will be governed by your role and what the business expects of you, but there’s always room to carve out your own unique way of doing things, however small. Over the years, all of these small behaviours will join together to create your very own leadership style, so it’s good to start early and start as you mean to go on.
How do you become a leader?
If you’re already in a supervisory position you’re in a great place to start carving out your own style of leadership. Be there for your team, listen to their concerns and embrace their ideas. Give them clear instructions and room to do their work, and reward them when they exceed expectations.
If you’re not in a supervisory or managerial role, that’s okay. Day to day you’ll find plenty of opportunities to exercise leadership skills and show qualities like confidence, initiative and good team play. Speak up in meetings, volunteer suggestions and try and look at the business as a whole and how your department might benefit it.
Soon, it’ll become second nature and you’ll start getting noticed as leadership material. More importantly, you’ll know in your own mind what kind of employee - and what kind of leader - you eventually want to be.