How to Grow in Leadership When You Aren’t the One in Charge

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So you want to be a leader at work, but you don’t lead anyone in your current position.

But what if you didn’t have to be in charge to lead others? What if you could influence and motivate the people around you without officially being in charge of the team?

This isn’t about work rebellion or usurping authority. But leadership is less about your job title and more about your attitude. And you are the one in charge of how you behave, whether or not you’re a long-time janitor, first year teacher or graphic designer on a huge creative team.

If you’re interested in leading others, formally or informally, here are four things you can focus on to grow your skills—and maybe even get a promotion!

1. Find a mentor.

Behind any strong and influential leader is a wise mentor. If you seek out a mentor, you have more opportunities to expand your skills and grow beyond your current capacity than those who are happy to come in, do their time, and go home. And it shows you’re teachable and willing to learn.

When you’re looking for someone to mentor you, consider where you want to grow. Maybe it’s public speaking, marketing or design. It can be just about anything. Once you know what you want to learn, find someone with the heart of a teacher who is happy and willing to invest in you. It helps to pick someone who is several steps ahead of you in your career.

2. Become an expert.

Read books, watch webinars and stay up-to-date on the latest trends in your industry. The more you know, the better decisions you can make to influence your contribution to your organization. If you can become the authority on a subject, people will come to you for advice and want to pick your brain for ways to improve projects and procedures. But you need to know your industry inside and out before you can stake that kind of claim!

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3. Help others succeed.

Whether you’ve been in your industry for ten years or two months, you can help the people around you succeed. Become known for your encouragement and motivation. Offer to lend a hand if someone is stressed out about a project, struggling with a timeline, or doesn’t know how to finish a particular piece of the puzzle.

It never hurts to help others. And if you can push them toward success and empower your teammates, people will notice. It not only builds trust and goodwill, but shows you are people-driven and care about those around you.

4. Communicate clearly.

Have you ever noticed how clearly strong leaders communicate? A good leader can inform and inspire people with clear and concise communication. They tend to write efficiently and speak with authority when they contribute to conversations or lead discussions. That’s why you need to invest in your communication skills.

Start a public speaking group to practice talking in front of others to get comfortable leading group discussions. Read books on how to improve your writing skills. Watch TED Talks and identify what the confident speakers have in common. Set a goal to communicate more clearly at work, and then put it into practice in small groups, brainstorming sessions and with friends and family.

Opportunities to lead are everywhere, whether you easily recognize them at first glance or have to put your thinking cap on and look outside the box. But if you want to build your leadership skills, start by focusing on these four things. With patience and practice, doors will start to open—and who knows where they’ll lead?

career | @ChrisBrownOnAir