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So, you want to become a leader. The only problem is that you have always been a follower, and you don’t know exactly what you need to do to make that transition. You may even doubt that you have what it takes to be a leader at all. Here are a few important truths. First of all, you may be more ready to lead than you think. In addition to this, there are things that you can do to develop leadership skills, demonstrate those skills, and put them to use right now.
How to Become a Leader When You’ve Been a Follower For Too Long
First of all, being a follower is not a negative thing. In fact, everybody is a follower in at least one area of their life. It simply means that you recognize that somebody has the experience and knowledge required to accomplish certain tasks, and that your best way of making things happen are to use your skills in support of that person’s efforts.
Even better, you can use what you have learned as a follower to make yourself a better leader. For example, you’ve probably learned to diplomatically express concern or disagreement. That’s an excellent skill for a leader to have. You also understand the importance of collaboration and recognizing that everybody plays an important role on a team. When you lead people, you will know to encourage this attitude in your followers as well.
2. Don’t Wait For a Promotion
You do not need to have a job title with the words supervisor, executive, lead, or manager to practice and display your leadership skills. Instead, find opportunities at work, at home, and in your community to be a leader. Here are a few things that you can try:
- If you are a member of a church or any community organizations volunteer to lead committees.
- Become a coach, umpire, or referee
- At work, most big projects are divided into smaller sub-projects. Offer to take the lead on one of those.
- Become active in the PTO.
- Choose a charity and organize an event such as a golf tournament or auction
Not only will you develop and strengthen your leadership skills, other people will begin to recognize you as a leader. This is great for networking opportunities and references.
3. Understand Your Strengths And Then Use Them
One difference between leaders and followers is that leaders have taken the time to inventory their personal and professional strengths, and they are willing to use those strengths. Followers, on the other hand, tend only to use their skills. Your skills are the things that you have been trained to do in order to accomplish tasks. Your strengths are the innate qualities within you that you can develop and use in order to become a good leader. For example, you may have learned the skill of computer programming, but your strength is keeping people motivated and helping them to feel good about themselves.
4. Work on Your Communications Skills
Good leaders are effective communicators in all areas. This includes speaking in front of groups, telephone communications, electronic communications, and written communications. Leaders know how to identify their message and communicate that message in a way that their audience understands. If you have any deficits when it comes to communicating with others, work on those now. Take a class, join toastmasters, do whatever it takes. This is not an area in which you can fake your way through, or find other ways to compensate, if you want to be a boss.
5. Praise And Support Others
Great leaders provide motivation and uplift others. They take notice when others have done well and they praise them for that. They also proactively look for people who need support, and find ways to provide that support. If you are the member of a team, you can develop these skills by giving your peers credit and thanks for the work that they do. You can also pay attention and offer to take up slack when you see that someone has been given too much to handle.
6. Tell Others About Your Ideas
One thing about leaders is that they believe in the value of their own ideas. Because of this, they are willing to share these ideas with the people who can help them make them happen. If you are used to being a follower, this can be a difficult task. You may have fear that your idea will be rejected or sharply criticized. You may also have self doubt. After all, there is a bit of ego that goes with being willing to put yourself out there, and essentially announce ‘This is my idea, and I think it is so good that we need to make this happen.’ However, this is a good kind ego, and you will need to develop as much of this as possible if you want to be a leader. Also, there is no way to be recognized as a potential leader without also being known for having great ideas.
7. Lead Yourself
How can you ever be a good leader, if you are directionless and indecisive in your own life? You cannot. So, set goals and work to make things happen for yourself. Set a timeline as well, so you don’t procrastinate. Then, do what it takes to mold yourself into the best person you can be. Finish your degree. Take a class to learn about a new piece of software. Move to a new city. Get organized. Basically, if you are falling short in areas of your life, fix things. If you have a professional or personal dream or objective, get the ball rolling. Good leaders are determined and they have a sense of purpose.