Traditional thinking would have you believe you need a title to be considered a leader. Conventional thinking is wrong. A title doesn't make a leader; your actions do.
Rachel Hollis, author of Girl Wash Your Face, said it well, "Our words have power, but our actions shape our lives."
I define a leader in Building the Best as "someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to elevate others over an extended period of time." People who live out this definition don't wait for a title -- and acting this way isn't reserved for the select few. Being a leader is for you, because when your actions inspire, empower, and serve others, not only will the performance of the people around you go up, your own performance will too.
Research done by the Global Leadership Forecast over the last eight years has seen the continued slippage in leadership as a bench strength. In 2018, only 14 percent of companies had a strong bench, the lowest number the study has ever seen. Not only are these scary numbers, but it makes it even more critical for you to take personal responsibility for the development of your leadership skills.
If you are ready to show your leadership skills before you have a title, here are a few ways to do it:
Actively Help and Empower Others You Work With
No one likes working with someone who only thinks about themselves and how they can get ahead. It's good to have drive, ambition, and aspirations for greatness, but it can't come at the expense of stepping on others to get there.
There is no better way to show your leadership skills than by helping and empowering others. This might mean passing along the knowledge and skills you have acquired or problem-solving an issue that's not directly your responsibility. Helping and empowering others proves you think more about others than you think about yourself.
This is critical because of what Darren Ford said on the Follow My Lead Podcast this week, “Inside every individual is the seeds of greatness. A leader’s responsibility to develop an environment where those seeds can bloom.”
Be an Elite Listener
There are many qualities all great leaders share but maybe none more important than the skill of listening. To be an elite listener, start with understanding the difference between hearing and listening.
Hearing is done with your ears, and listening is done with your mind. Hearing is something that happens to us without much control, while listening is something we choose to do to understand what someone else is saying. If you want to show your leadership skills, close your mouth for a while and truly listen to what others are saying. Not only will you learn something, but it will also make an enormous impression to others because elite listeners stand out.
Have a Development Mindset
The best leaders are learners, so your approach to developing yourself or being developed is paramount if you want to share your leadership skills or what most people mike call "soft skills." A few of the key competencies my company LearnLoft measures as a part of the BTB Professional Assessment include; growth mindset, character, accountability, empathy, listening, emotional intelligence, perseverance, and being coachable.
The one I am going to focus on is coachability, which is tied to being an elite listener. Coachability simply means you are capable of being easily taught or trained to do something better. Unfortunately, many professionals think they have all the answers which make them almost entirely uncoachable. There is a reason the best athletes in the world have coaches, and if it's good enough for Brooks Koepka or LeBron James, it should be good enough for you.
Communicate with Clarity
There is nothing more challenging than reading an email or listening to someone speak, and you have little to no idea what they are trying to convey. How well each of us communicates with clarity is one of the primary ways people judge your leadership skills.
If communicating with clarity is an area you want to improve, start by focusing on the brain. Each of our brains is continually evaluating what kind of pain or gain we will experience if we do or don't do something. Lean into what our brains are already doing and communicate what good or bad thing happens if someone does or doesn't take action from your words.
Don't Wait, Be Proactive
There is no quicker way to show your leadership skills than to be proactive instead of reactive. Instead of waiting for others to tell you what do to, look for problems and try and solve them yourself.
While this might come more naturally for some people than for others, it's an area every person can improve upon. A mentor of mine said words to me that helped changed my perspective on the subject, "If not you, then who?"