Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Have you ever felt like you missed your opportunity to lead? Do you wonder how you can become a leader without a title or official position? Today, Jeff answers a listener's question about how to become a leader at work and whether it is too late to become a leader. Tune in to learn four key things you should be doing right now if you want to be a leader and two mistakes to avoid.
Listener Question: “I am in my mid 30’s and have never held a leadership role up to this point. Over the last several months I have gained a serious interest in becoming a leader. I have been listening to your show and consuming as much leadership information as I can. What practical things can I be doing now to become more influential and noticed as a leader at my place of work AND do you think the time has passed me by to become a leader given my age?”
You are never too old or too young to begin following your passions and develop yourself into the person you desire to be. The best time to start is now! You don’t have to wait for the title or the fancy office. You can begin to act, think, and communicate like a leader long before that promotion.
Even if you’re still pretty far down on the totem pole, there are numerous ways to demonstrate your potential and carve a path to the position that you want. One thing I would recommend that everyone do is read the book “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins. This is a book that I have recommended to hundreds of people who are preparing themselves for the next step. It is designed to help people transition into new roles. It is useful to get into the mindset of ACTING AS IF.
Here are 4 ways you can start acting as if you are already a leader.
1. Help your boss win!
At the end of each day, you should ask your boss if there is anything additional you can do to help them. This will often mean taking on tough assignments and picking up an additional workload. You must be willing! When you are intentional, you show everyone that you are taking action and are willing to do more to be developed. Find out what keeps your manager up at night and propose solutions to those problems.
Q: Have you ever tried this strategy before? What was the end result? How else do you think you can help your boss win outside of your normal responsibilities?
2. Seize leadership opportunities, no matter how small.
Raise your hand for new initiatives, especially ones that might be visible to those outside your current circle. This will give others a taste of what you will be like in a leadership role. Look for opportunities outside of work to hone your leadership skills. (Church, non-profit, coaching a team, etc.)
Q: Describe a time you took on a leadership role outside of work. What is one thing you learned?
3. Find role models.
Look for people who have the roles you want and study what they do — how they act, communicate, and dress. Pick someone at the next level, someone similar to you, and find a way to work with them. Leadership is better caught than it is taught.
Q: Who is one of your current role models? What have you learned from them so far?
4. Build relationships.
You may have heard it said that it’s not who you know, it’s who knows you. You need advocates across the organization — people who are aware of the work you’re doing. Don’t take lightly any interactions that may seem informal. Treat every situation as an opportunity to demonstrate the value you bring to the organization and your knowledge of the business. A resume is important, but when all talent is equal, it will be about WHO you are and not WHAT you have done. Q: Have any relationships helped you to get where you are today? Who are those people? What qualities did they have that helped you?
Great future leaders avoid:
1. Allowing their desires to distract them from being great in their current roles.
2. Trying to exert authority when you don’t have it.
Apply Jeff’s advice from his first point today! Write down how your offer to help was received and what you ended up doing. Make note of things that keep coming up as you continue this practice so that you can identify one area your boss routinely needs help with and find a solution! This will make you a stand-out and set you up for a promotion when a position becomes available.
Networking and building relationships from your network contacts is a huge part of growing your personal brand and reaching your goals. Take a look at the stack of networking cards you have on your desk. Identify 3-5 people who would be able to help you get to the next level, reach out, and make a connection with them. Not every network contact will turn into a strong relationship, but when you make a good connection, you will see a return on your investment! Challenge yourself to repeat this process every month or quarter.
Find a leadership position outside of your current business. You could help coach little league or join a serve team at your church. Regardless of how much time you can dedicate, there is an opportunity for you to lead in your community, you just have to find it. Make the most of this opportunity by considering the leadership qualities you most want to work on and applying them to those situations.