9 Ways To Demonstrate That You’re A Leader When Your Job Is Individual Contributor
True leadership is not about where your job title sits in the corporate org chart—or even what your title is. Instead, leadership is a mindset. An attitude. A set of actions and behaviors showing that your contributions extend far outside the items on your do-list. Whether you are in the early stages of your career or you don’t oversee any direct reports, here are 9 leadership behaviors to model so that you can strengthen the leadership traits of your personal brand.
1. Focus On the Big Picture And Ask Big Questions
Individual contributors focus on the task at hand and work to get all the items on their do-list done. But leaders think about how those tasks connect to the big picture. They dedicate themselves to solving vexing challenges that others ignore or avoid. They’re willing to speak out about things they feel are important even when they know it might spark controversy. They see the big-picture implications of what they are doing and seek to understand its impact. Sometimes this means having the courage to question authority, respectfully and with copious frontline expertise to back it up.
2. Exude Optimism
The most effective leaders have an attitude of positivity and possibility. They steer clear of gossip, negativity, blame and complaining. They use big-picture thinking to stay fixated on the important stuff while giving small setbacks very little attention. They celebrate even the smallest win and acknowledge progress toward long-term objectives.
3. Reverse-Mentor Senior Leaders
Mentoring is something senior professionals do to support their less-experienced colleagues by sharing their expertise and advice. Reverse mentoring is just as powerful because it allows you to demonstrate skills in front of people who can help you move into a leadership role. The key is to offer your wisdom in the spirit of service, not to be a know-it-all. If you’re a social media maven or an expert in delivering presentations online, and you know that the leaders in your organization could benefit from your expertise and experience, offer to support them. It’s a powerful way to get on the radar of leaders and show the value you possess beyond your current role.
4. Express Gratitude
Leaders are less focused on being appreciated than they are on expressing their appreciation for others. They publicly express gratitude and recognize colleagues for their contributions. They do this individually and in front of others. You don’t need a management title to say, “Well-done!” to a co-worker. Commit to praising others and you’ll be known as someone who is engaged in team and company morale.
5. Initiate and Innovate
Leaders are self-starters and don’t wait for fine-print directions or guidance. By maintaining a perspective on the team’s mission, they identify needs and act to achieve them. Leaders seek out solutions and best practices so they can innovate rather than stick with the status quo. Be pro-active. Improve the systems and processes your colleagues take for granted, and you’ll get noticed by your boss and maybe her boss.
6. Be A Brand Ambassador
When you become the spokesperson for your team and your company, you move yourself outside the traditional hierarchy and become known throughout the organization as someone who is loyal and exceptionally strategic. Being a brand ambassador can mean sharing company content with your social media followers or volunteering to be part of company onboarding programs.
7. Volunteer For A Company-Wide Project
Leaders think beyond their job title and department or division. They want to know what’s happening in market research even if they work in HR. You can put this approach into action by offering to contribute to a corporate-wide initiative, or better yet, by identifying an initiative—a transformation that will be significantly valuable to the company—and taking the lead role. Engage with others throughout the organization.
8. Become An Outstanding Communicator
Leaders are able to communicate effectively with their team. This means being skilled at all forms of communication—including writing emails, delivering powerful online presentations, listening actively and engaging in team discussions. A Journal of Applied Psychology study found that effective communication was strongly associated with leadership effectiveness, and that leaders who scored higher on measures of communication effectiveness were rated as more effective by their subordinates. Put your audience first. Edit your work by reading it through their eyes.
9. Demonstrate Leadership Outside Of Work
Leadership can be demonstrated through those things you do when you’re not officially on the job. Join the board of an organization to practice your consulting skills and actively track what you are doing to support volunteer organizations. This will yield plenty of vivid examples of your leadership capabilities that you can share at work and in your personal branding.
You don’t need a leadership title to make you a leader. When you adopt these 9 mindsets and actions of a leader, you’ll be seen as one—even if you’re an entry-level employee with zero people to lead (for now).
William Arruda is a keynote speaker, co-founder of CareerBlast.TV and co-creator of the Personal Brand Power Audit – a complimentary quiz that helps you measure the strength of personal brand.