This week in the UK, the run up to the general election began in full force. With various debates lined up, photographic opportunities being sought left and right and sound-bites aplenty, it is easy to forget what is the important thing it when it comes to an election. It is about finding a leader. That one person who can represent our country, pull his or her team together and lead from the front with exemplary foresight and direction. We are voting for our leader.
The fact is that prime ministers or presidents are likely to have identified themselves as leaders very early in their career. They were the person who came up with the ideas, galvanised the troops and got things done. They were excited about the future and they had clear vision. Leaders are the very people that employers want within their workplace. They are able to offer a good example to others and have a natural affinity with people.
For most people, the idea of being a leader seems unobtainable. We are happier to follow simply because it seems easier. That can work well in some job roles – but it does little to send you into stratospheric heights when it comes to career progression. The thing is, that you probably have plenty of leadership skills that you just under-use or are not aware of. Highlighting them to your prospective employer is a great idea – even if you think you are running before you are walking. Don't worry, you will catch up!
There are some great ways to enhance your leadership skills and discover the emerging leader in you.
Capture attention and keep it
Are you one of those people who can gather a crowd, whose anecdotes are brilliant and who can keep your friends easily entertained throughout the evening? If so, you may just be what is coined an emerging leader. Leaders are charismatic and full of ideas – when they speak, you listen.
Transferring the skills of holding people's attention to the workplace is a great place to start on your leadership path. If you believe in what you are saying – just say it with conviction. Think of your colleagues as your friends and entertain them with facts, figures and ideas. You can do this by speaking clearly and forcefully (but not aggressively) and by taking the lead in meetings. Never be afraid of voicing your opinion.
Make the most of career advancements
If you have been promoted several times in your career, if new projects are always sent your way and you get plenty of job offers – there is a good chance that it is your leadership skill that is doing the job. Employers love people who get things done and will promote them accordingly.
If you fail to take advantage of these opportunities as they arise, you will never reach the heights that befit a leader. Never forget that enhancing your brand is as important as doing a good job and furthering your career is an important part of that process. Leaders are usually team leaders, managers or directors. They are rarely lower down the pecking order. Once you reach those heights, do what it takes to stay there.
Never fear failure
When things go wrong do you crumble or keep going? Leaders are those people who are not afraid of showing that they are human and that human frailty is perfectly OK – as long as you overcome challenges. Showing an example like this to younger colleagues is the mark of a true leader. It takes real guts to admit mistakes and even more courage to start again.
When the worst happens you need to show real strength of character. For some in leadership roles this may mean compartmentalising your work life from your home life – keep the stress where it should be. This stress reduction can come from being very organised, having plenty of help and remembering that work isn't everything. Don't forget that people are looking to you for a reaction – it had better be inspiring and proportionate.
Delegate, delegate, delegate
OK, so there are those who delegate because they are lazy – this is not you. A leader will delegate to the right people, openly admitting that they are not good at everything and allowing others to take the credit for a job well done. They see the strengths within their team and make the most of it. They see the full picture.
To show leadership you should be willing to give up that leadership if necessary. Offer great projects to colleagues, play to your skills and those around you and be ready and willing to accept advice from others. Even leaders need to be led. Never forget to offer congratulations for a job well done and always reward hard work.
Believe in yourself
Something in the back of your mind has brought you to this article and started you on the road towards thinking of yourself as a leader. The fact is that the sheer fact you think you could be means you quite possibly are. Leaders are not full of themselves, but they believe in themselves. You can make the choice to be a leader by putting yourself out there and bringing your skills to the forefront. It might seem scary, but it gets easier every time you decide to lead. It will be noticed and it will work.
Maybe you think that our election candidates are not good for the country or good at their jobs – but at some point they emerged as leaders and were elected to lead. They made that choice to put themselves out there and take on the hard jobs. They may or may not have the charisma of some of the best – but they had that indefinable something that got them to the top job.
With a little hard work you could reach that top job too.