What does it take to be a leader?
Leaders aren’t born that way. Over time they acquire and cultivate skills that make them stand out as someone who is ready for a leadership role.
Forging relationships. You can work hard as an individual contributor. That will get you noticed, but eventually you will need to learn to work in cooperation with others. Your success depends on how well you work with others as a team.
Be a team player. As a leader you depend on a team of people to get things done. But not only that: you are part of a team of leaders, where cooperation between teams becomes essential. How well you work with cross-functional teams becomes important.
Customer service. Not all customers are easy to please. Knowing how to effectively diffuse difficult customers is an important skill. Knowing how to make a customer feel welcome is another. Here is an example. As treasurer for a not-for-profit I handled a very small checking account. When I took on that role I needed to change the signature cards. I met with the branch manager of the bank and he also introduced me to an assistant. After that initial meeting, every time I walked into that branch office of the bank he and his assistant greeted me by name. That made a big impression on me.
Communicate. It is your responsibility to communicate with your direct chain of command. Let them know of your interest to take on greater responsibilities and your readiness as a leader. In larger organizations the Human Resources Department may also be an ally in letting you know of opportunities as they become available.
Networking. Make acquaintances in other departments of your company. Meet over coffee or lunch with people you don’t have a chance to work with. Learn about what they do. You never know when an opportunity opens up where you need a contact in that department. Or you could become the go-to person for that contact in your department.
Energy. Identify what gives you an energetic boost during the day and what drains you. Are there tasks or people who lift you up and others who will suck the wind out of your sails? It is important to manage your energy, so you can produce top quality results.
It’s about the company. Are you a company person? In the end it’s about what’s good for the company. Are you someone who is aware of the overall picture of the industry and how the company can do well and how your contribution matters?
Be connected. Belong to a professional organization to know what’s going on in other companies. Represent your company well. Take on a leadership role.
Volunteer. Volunteering in a professional organization gives you opportunities to learn and practice leadership skills.
Strengthen your leadership skills and don’t be surprised if others notice.
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