Leadership is a skill that is not reserved solely for managers, directors, VPs, or anyone else who is the head of a department or a company. It is a crucial quality that any valuable employee should demonstrate in some form or another in the workplace. The term “leadership” can encompass a wide variety of actions and attitudes; it does not necessarily apply only to a single leader of a group. Leadership can manifest in small actions that can ultimately result in change – and as such, it is an essential part of the progress both of a company and of your individual growth as a professional.
As an employee of a company who is not in a position specifically defined as a “leader,” why is it important to demonstrate leadership, and how can you do it? Firstly, good leadership skills can help you advance within your company or field. If your supervisor and colleagues notice that you take initiative on a regular basis – by offering to organize a project, prompting a discussion or meeting, or tackling even a minute issue that has been ignored or delayed – they may recognize that you have the leadership skills that can apply to a larger set of responsibilities.
Remember, too, that leadership goes hand-in-hand with confidence: if you are confident in your skills and ideas and are willing to take risks by advancing them, your ability to lead will follow suit. Building self-confidence may not be a fast or easy process, but it is an achievement within any individual’s reach. A few basic tips for confidence in the workplace: first, always be prepared. You will feel the best about your work and your efforts to build relationships if you know that you have done everything you can ahead of time to begin a new project or complete a task thoroughly and correctly. In addition, dress for success and look your professional best in the workplace. It will give you more confidence to get up in front of people – whether in a one-to-one discussion, a small group meeting, or a boardroom packed with people – and then let your ideas do the talking.
It is important not only for individuals, but also for companies to build a strong foundation of leadership in order to effect long-term growth and sustainability. When the leaders of a company are competent and dependable, employees within it will come to trust in their company and invest themselves in their work. Yet there is concern that many companies and organizations today lack vital leadership: in an article last week in the National Post, Dr. Mary Donahue cited a current “leadership desert” in the US and Canada, and called for companies to re-evaluate and improve their means for cultivating leadership internally. In her article, she champions mentorship programs not only for passing knowledge to newer employees, but also (and perhaps more importantly) for what they can teach mentors about leadership by “forcing them to review how they lead and how they communicate excellence in the workplace,” as well as by helping “leaders learn how to provide context, define success, and enable their followers to fail and learn from their failures.” These experiences, Dr. Donahue claims, are indispensable for creating “staff satisfaction and loyalty.”
If Dr. Donahue’s prediction that the younger generations in the workplace will become increasingly uncommitted to organizations and their positions within them because of distrust in their leaders, then perhaps the call for improved leadership is an urgent one. This process can start with you, no matter what your professional position: because if you demonstrate your willingness and ability to lead, you may be the one in the future who is building the fundamental bonds of trust and inciting dialogue, creativity, and innovation among your colleagues.