You don’t need a big corner office or a fancy title to be a leader. You just need the qualities that all leaders possess. Whether you’re a young intern or a top manager, you can hone your leadership skills now and make an impact on your company and your career.
Good leadership is not only vital to a company’s success, but to every individual employee as well. Explaining and understanding what leadership is can be easier said than done, but the good news is that everyone–from the youngest intern to the veteran manager–can learn the essential skills.
How to Develop Your Inner Leader
You don’t have to wait until you’re in the modern workforce to become an effective leader. In fact, the best time to start learning those modern management techniques is before you even go to your first job interview.
Don Betz is president of the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), and its Leadership Central initiative is designed to provide, deliver, and support leadership enterprises on UCO’s campus. The leadership initiative enhances education through communication training, ethics, collaboration, and more. According to Don, there are some major factors that play into a new hire’s ability to sink or swim when it comes to leadership.
“The most important reason that new hires fail is that they do not listen, they don’t communicate, they aren’t ‘coachable,’ they can’t critically analyze, and they don’t ask the important questions,” said Betz. “Those are basic leadership qualities, and that’s what employers look for.”
To learn how to lead even if you don’t hold an executive position at work, volunteer for a nonprofit organization or join a club. These groups, like churches and school organizations, are full of opportunities to lead on committees, projects, or events. They are great starting places for future leaders.
“There are hundreds of organizations on school campuses that can help hone those skills,” said Betz. “In an organization, especially if that organization has a large event, you have to learn to communicate, collaborate, and take on leadership roles. You will be absolutely astounded at what you can learn to do.”
Look for Opportunities
Train your brain to identify every opportunity to demonstrate your potential as a leader in both your professional and personal life.
“Lead by example. Be the first person in and last person out, and hustle harder than everyone else,” said Kyle Golding, CEO and chief strategic idealist for The Golding Group, a strategic planning and business development firm.
Remember not to get ahead of yourself. Don’t give up on big ambitions, but also focus on excelling in your current position, giving as much effort to the present as to the future.
Study Other Leaders
Find people in your office that you admire and study them. Ask them how they developed their leadership style, how they reached their current position, and any tips they can share.
If you are too shy to approach your co-workers or leaders, study the way they interact with others. Or, pick up one of the many books about leadership and give it a read.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re employed or not, you can find examples of great leaders,” Golding said. “Study the way they act, the way they think, and start implementing their ideas. It doesn’t matter if they are in your field or not. All leaders have a style that makes others want to follow them.”
Know Your Stuff
As an intern or a new hire, you can make an immediate impact as a leader by supporting your bosses and the company in reaching goals. The simplest way an intern or a new hire can flex the leadership muscle is by knowing as much about the company as possible.
“Never go in unprepared,” Betz said. “Know your skills, but also study the company and their ideals, values, and goals. Be approachable, be warm, ask the good questions, and demonstrate a good work ethic.”
Leaders also take the initiative to grow and learn. A good leader has a curious and open mind, and so should you. Leaders think outside of the box, are open to new and exciting ideas, and listen to what others suggest.
You can share those qualities no matter what position you are in. If you want to move up, volunteer to learn something out of your current job description.
“Ask questions, but ask solid questions,” Golding said. “This shows you have an understanding of your role – no matter how small – in the big picture of the company.”
Offer to Help
Needless to say, offering your help is the quickest way to be noticed and appreciated. If your company is facing a challenge, ask how you can help. No matter your role in the company, you can make a real difference.
“Companies look for that special enthusiasm and spark that goes well beyond the resume,” Betz said.
Practicing important qualities of a leader like taking initiative, offering to help, or learning from your superiors will add value to your career and your company. So, take the time to learn these skills and you’ll shine when opportunities for advancement arise.