Five Tips for Becoming a Leader

One of the most frequent questions I get from readers is “How can I get promoted into a management position?” That list of answers is far too complex for just one column, but here are five to get you started.

ONE Start taking responsibility now. Don’t wait until you’ve been promoted. Show your potential for leadership right now by taking responsibility for your own work. Don’t make excuses for poor quality or missed deadlines. Give up the idea that you can’t move ahead because of bad management, or poor supervision, or you’re a minority or female, or you don’t have a degree, or any number of other excuses. Take responsibility for your own future.

For example, no one will consider you for a promotion if you’re only doing average or sub-standard work. You must do more, be better. That means showing up for work every day, being on time, meeting your deadlines, looking for ways to improve. It doesn’t mean criticizing everything and everyone. It does mean offering simple, constructive ways to make small, incremental improvements in systems or processes, or volunteering to research a persistent problem and propose one or two simple solutions.

TWO Focus on building relationships. No one becomes a leader just by being an outstanding individual performer, although that certainly helps. You become a leader because people are willing to follow your lead. Give others more than you get. Ask yourself every day what you can do for other people. When others do nice things for you, or contribute something helpful to the team, or to improve how things work, write a thank-you note. Forgive mistakes–we all make them, and nobody is perfect. Own up to your own mistakes. Say you’re sorry and be sincere about it, then learn from it so you don’t repeat it.

THREE Become a lifelong learner. Regardless your level of skill or education, or the number of certifications you have achieved, keep learning new things. The more you learn, the more you grow. Join a professional group, subscribe to an internet blog you admire, follow your industry news, read a book, take a class on your own time.

But don’t pretend a level of knowledge you don’t have. It’s okay to say, “I’m not sure I’m ready yet, but I’m willing to try.” Then redouble your efforts to master a new skill.

FOUR Get help from other people. Ask someone you admire to be your mentor and coach. This person should be someone in a position at a higher level, preferably in management. They should be willing to give you direction, and honest feedback. And hopefully, they will recommend you for special projects that will help you grow.

FIVE Take charge and lead. When you see a need, don’t make a big deal of it, just get the job done, and make sure it’s done right. When you see that someone needs help, offer that help. When you see a problem, do the research and then propose a solution. Become the person others come to when they need help. Don’t toot your own horn, just get the job done. Believe me, someone will notice.

These are only a few of the things ambitious people do to become successful in their careers. Apply them now and you, too, will be able to grow into a future leadership position.

About Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR

Pat Kelley, MS, SPHR, is the author of three non-fiction books, including the Second Edition of Hiring Right: A Business Blueprint for Lower Turnover and Higher Profits. She is a retired Human Resources Director with more than 40 years' experience. Certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources, she is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arkansas Society for Human Resource Management.
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