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7 Ways To Be a Leader (Not Just A Manager)

While leadership and management go hand in hand, they are not the same thing

“Leaders” and “managers” are often used interchangeably, and while there is some overlap between the work that they do, there are also important differences. 

In his seminal 1989 book “On Becoming a Leader,”  Warren Bennis — American scholar, organizational consultant, and widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of leadership studies — compiled a list of these differences: 

— A manager administers, a leader innovates

— A manager maintains, a leader is an original

— A manager focuses on systems and structure, a leader focuses on people

— A manager relies on control, a leader inspires trust

— A manager has a short-range view, a leader has a long-range perspective

— A manager asks “how” and “when,” a leader asks “how” and “why”

— A manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line, a leader’s eye is on the horizon

— A manager imitates, a leader originates

— A manager accepts the status quo, a leader challenges it

— A manager does things right, a leader does the right thing

The best managers are leaders, but you do not necessarily have to be in a managerial position to be a leader. Any time you act in a way that inspires, encourages, or engages others, you are a leader. 

That said, whether you are a veteran or aspiring manager, possessing strong leadership skills is important because not only will it lead to better job performance, you also gain the knowledge and opportunity to influence the context and environment in which decisions get made. We’ve outlined below seven steps to help you get started on how to be  a leader at work:

  1. Work on your mental and emotional health

As a leader, you will be expected to set the tone during stressful and uncertain times, of which the workplace has many. This does not mean you should have the answers to all the problems; rather, it means you need to have the conviction and resilience to move forward. So not only should you be ready for anything, you also need to bring creativity, humor, and curiosity to stressful situations so that others can rely on you when things become difficult. 

  1. Practice self-awareness

Companies are not the only ones that have a brand identity — people do, too. A person’s work brand is based on his or her strengths, weaknesses, and what they contribute to the organization? As a leader, you need to be aware of your work brand so that you can develop yourself and, as a result, your leadership. So always seek feedback about your performance, whether it’s from a peer, someone more senior, and even from more junior staff — and take these seriously and professionally. 

  1. Adopt a growth mindset. 

Find ways to constantly improve yourself and your situation, whether it’s by honing your existing skills or developing new ones. 

  1. Be supportive. 

A true leader is a great facilitator. So encourage others to speak up instead of constantly offering only your opinions. Publicly recognize them when they do an excellent job, and resolve differences constructively. Create a safe space for people to open up to you if something is bothering them. Doing these builds trust in the workplace, creates rapport, develops positive mental well-being, and gives others the opportunity to improve themselves as well.

  1.  Think strategically.

A good leader is always goal-oriented — he or she has a plan on how to achieve those goals and the determination to act on them. When dealing with team members, it means you recognize the potential in everyone and know how to delegate to make the best of their strengths. 

  1. Be innovative.

Constantly think of ways to set your business apart from competitors. When you contribute creative ideas that are out of the box but benefit your company’s bottom line, you are exemplifying true leadership.

  1. Take the initiative. 

When you have done all of the above, it means you have led your team to working at maximum efficiency. This means you now have some time to learn new things or take on more responsibility. Don’t be afraid to ask management for more responsibility so you can further level up your game. When it comes to developing your leadership skills, the sky is the limit. 

As with other traits, leadership is a quality that needs to be shaped. By practicing empathy, openness, and self-awareness, professionals of all levels can develop leadership skills and find out how to bring out the best in themselves and others.

— Written by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua of MindNation

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