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Being a leader nowa­days con­notes as a title, posi­tion, or some­one who has a huge fol­low­ing or influ­ence. While it is hard to become one because it takes self-dis­ci­pline and a lot of expe­ri­ence, most of us think that we can only act as a leader once we are there. 

But being a leader is way far beyond what we have framed or oth­er peo­ple have framed over our minds. You can be a leader before you become one. You don’t have to wait for that pro­mo­tion to become one because even you’re still sev­er­al lev­els down from the top and some­one else is the boss there are ways you can show to oth­ers your poten­tial to become a leader. When peo­ple rec­og­nize you as a leader not because of your title or posi­tion or even tenure­ship, the more chances you will become a real leader soon­er than any­one can expect of you. 

Muriel Maig­nan Wilkins author of “Own the Room: Dis­cov­er Your Sig­na­ture Voice to Mas­ter Your Lead­er­ship Pres­ence.” said, “It’s nev­er fool­ish to begin prepar­ing for a tran­si­tion no mat­ter how many years away it is or where you are in your career” 

Act­ing like a leader is not act­ing like your boss who called the shots when he is not around and plays pow­er-trip­ping to your col­leagues or it is not even being close to your boss or oth­er man­agers or exec­u­tives in your com­pa­ny. Act­ing like a leader is to take on oppor­tu­ni­ties now regard­less of your tenure or role, you can demon­strate lead­er­ship at any time and any­where. So here are some ways how you can do that.

1. Ful­fill your job excel­lent­ly. Aris­to­tle once said, “We are what we repeat­ed­ly do. Excel­lence then is not an act, but a habit. Most peo­ple are wor­ried when they will receive their pro­mo­tion or when they will be assigned to a project that offers more growth oppor­tu­ni­ties or offers work­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties abroad or more vis­i­bil­i­ty to your man­ag­er, but regard­less of how big your ambi­tion is,  don’t let them dis­tract you from excelling in your cur­rent role. 

Focus on the present and your job. A lot of oppor­tu­ni­ties have missed because many are too focused on the future. You still need to deliv­er results in your day job. The first step of get­ting ahead is to take care of today’s busi­ness or what in your plate right now, so that nobody — your boss, your col­leagues, peers or those oth­ers above you ques­tion your per­for­mance.

2. Seize lead­er­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties, no mat­ter how small they are.  Hav­ing a “let me take it” atti­tude is the next step of get­ting ahead. It will not only show you are inter­est­ed to take a few ini­tia­tives but it will extend your rela­tion­ship with your boss that you are there when­ev­er he/she needs you. 

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I remem­ber when I was in Hewlett-Packard, I’ve been for so 4 years already that I nev­er get any pro­mo­tion. So one day, I asked my man­ag­er about it, he said to me, “Dhenn, I have nev­er seen you tak­ing any ini­tia­tives in the com­pa­ny.” I replied, “Sir, what can I do to earn that pro­mo­tion?” And he gave me tasks that he needs help and even it was small enough for oth­ers to take on, I did that tasks excel­lent­ly and whole­heart­ed­ly. 

Tak­ing on lead­er­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties as head­ing an event, or even orga­niz­ing an event will give oth­ers — may it be your team­mates, col­leagues or some­one else above you a taste of “what you will be like”  in a more senior role.

3. Look for the white­space. When I say white­space, these are spaces or projects that oth­ers don’t want to take it. Per­haps it is chal­leng­ing or maybe it is too small to notice.

Maiga Wilkins says “Every orga­ni­za­tion has needs that nobody is pay­ing atten­tion to, or peo­ple are active­ly ignor­ing,” I remem­ber a sto­ry post­ed only about Steve Kerr, coach of Gold­en State War­riors when he shared that he also lis­tens even to their janitor(s) about their opin­ion on their game because he val­ues their opin­ion and it will help them to pro­vide a good strat­e­gy to win in every game they will be play­ing in.

While the truth of the mat­ter that some orga­ni­za­tion just wants their employ­ees to shut up and just do their work, I think that’s not a healthy cul­ture to work on. A healthy cul­ture val­ues the opin­ion of oth­ers even it is good or bad. Do not be afraid to speak out. Oth­ers may per­ceive you as rebel­lious but it might be the white­space you are look­ing for, there is a need to cre­ate a safe envi­ron­ment in your team where every­one and any­one regard­less of their posi­tion or title can speak out their voic­es with­out being afraid to be crit­i­cized.

4. Help your boss suc­ceed. While doing your job excel­lent­ly, don’t for­get to exe­cute your boss’ pri­or­i­ties too. Show to him or her that you are will­ing.

I remem­ber when I was work­ing with Shell as an RPA Spe­cial­ist, I was in their HR Ser­vices Depart­ment, my man­ag­er and oth­er col­leagues keep telling me to be vis­i­ble with the boss­es. Now I know what they meant. The goal of help­ing your boss to suc­ceed is to find out what’s bug­ging him or her day and night and pro­pose a solu­tion to those prob­lems.

When I was at Shell, my man­ag­er often tag me along with her meet­ings with the heads of oper­a­tional man­agers and learn their prob­lems, so we can offer solu­tions to those prob­lems.

5. Don’t be a jerk. Fran­cis Kong said, “The one accu­rate test of a per­son­’s char­ac­ter is his or her atti­tude towards mon­ey or pow­er.”  Don’t act like a boss or exert author­i­ty when you don’t have it.

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Jesus said, “Do unto oth­ers as you would have them do unto you.” If you remem­ber, this became the Gold­en Rule. It is sim­ply to treat oth­er peo­ple with the con­cern and kind­ness you would like them to show toward you. Prac­tice “ser­vant lead­er­ship”. A leader is not some­one who exerts author­i­ty over oth­ers, a true leader is the one who serves his or her sub­or­di­nates, treats them with respect, lis­tens to their con­cerns, and putting oth­ers first.

6. Find role mod­els. Find peo­ple whom you can look up to. Study what they are doing, invite them for a cof­fee and ask them if they can men­tor you. As you stay long in the orga­ni­za­tion or com­pa­ny, make sure you are inten­tion­al in build­ing a rela­tion­ship with these peo­ple you are look­ing for. And last­ly,

7. Build rela­tion­ships. One of the things I hate is; when­ev­er I am new to the com­pa­ny; no one cares the moment I arrived in the office for the first time. No one has ever greet­ed me because they are busy or per­haps they just don’t care for the new hire. This is the last but not the least and this is the most impor­tant key in get­ting ahead. 

Den­nis Wait­ley said, “If you are not net­work­ing, you are not work­ing.” Or if I rephrase it, you are not work­ing if you are not net­work­ing.  You will be spend­ing more than 40 hours a week at your com­pa­ny, you can­not sur­vive with­out rela­tion­ships. It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. 

When you will be eval­u­at­ed for a pro­mo­tion or progress, it’s not your per­for­mance sole­ly he or she will rely on. Most like­ly he or she will sit with oth­ers to eval­u­ate your poten­tial and abil­i­ty. In that case, for you to get ahead of that pro­mo­tion is; it is not what you know or who you know but who knows you.

The wider your social cir­cle, the more diverse, the more chances for you to dis­cov­er opportuni­ties and build rela­tion­ships.

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I blog about my dis­cov­er­ies and learn­ings with per­son­al devel­op­ment, blog­ging, writ­ing, pub­lic speak­ing, and pub­lish­ing. I am a Jesus fol­low­er. Each month, I send out a newslet­ter with free tips on those top­ics.

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