There are many elements that define a great leader, such as charisma and personality. However, becoming the leader of a team, branch, or organization is a lot easier said than done, especially as the millennial generation continues to enter the workforce, expecting leadership roles early on. Many hopefuls will vie for the few prestigious positions available, believing themselves to be fit for the role, but few will truly succeed at finding success. The key to becoming a great leader is to act like one before you are one.
If you are wondering how to become the leader you have always wanted to be, you have to first work your way up the organization chain, gaining respect as you go. It is never too early to begin preparing for a leadership role and the transition that accompanies it. Allow managers to see that you can demonstrate the skills needed, regardless of your current title. Dominate your current responsibilities and continuously deliver quality results that demonstrate you are ready for more.
Performing well in your current role may only maintain the status quo in the eyes of management. To truly stand out as leadership material, spend some time working in the “white space”. This is the work within the organization that has specific needs to be addressed that nobody is focused on, or everyone is intentionally avoiding. Tackling forgotten but important issues without being assigned to do so represents your willingness to go above and beyond for the greater good of the organization.
Accomplishing the tasks laid before you will only propel you so far. You must innovate yourself to provide continuously high-quality, efficient work. Make sure management is aware of your specific skills and traits, as they are what create your personal differentiators. Many will argue the importance of being an introvert or extrovert, or the necessity of being an analytical thinker. However, Robert Martin, an author with Harvard Business Review, thinks the single most important trait possessed in top leadership is integrative thinking.
Integrative thinkers are top leaders who possess the ability to hold two opposing ideas in their head, analyze each, and form a third hybrid idea that is often superior than both. This concept is explained further by the late F. Scott Fitzgerald who saw “the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function” as the sign of a truly intelligent individual. Possessing this trait will help you to make better decisions on the road to success, driving your organization and employees forward.
There are many keys to continuously innovating yourself and building your role as a leader. Address the needs of the organization and take proactive steps towards your ambitions, positioning yourself as a leader, even before the opportunity presents itself.