Learn leadership skills before you’re the leader
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Who says you need to be a leader to gain leadership skills?

9 May 2017

When it comes to your career, don’t simply follow the leader – learn to be one.

If you’re just starting out in a job, you might feel like there is a long way to go before you attain a leadership role.

This might make you put the development of leadership skills on the back burner. After all, why do you need them now when you have no one to lead?

The truth is that you will put yourself in the best position if you start developing leadership skills from the very first day of your job.

These skills are invaluable and don’t have to be saved for when you’re in a distinct position of power. You will be able to use leadership skills throughout your entire career, even from an entry-level position, and you don’t need a course to start developing them either.

If you’re just starting out, and you want to get a head start on your leadership abilities, there are a few things you can do with very little effort.

Personal attributes

Show enthusiasm in your job. Your positive or negative energy is contagious, which is important for leaders to remember. If others see you complete a job with positivity and high energy, they’re more likely to follow suit.

Don’t make excuses, be negative or find problems in every situation. This is a skill that will stand to you at every level of your career. Your boss will never want to hear any of those things – they will only want to hear solutions and positivity. This will travel with you when you become a leader.

Show that you can be flexible and cooperate with the people around you. A good leader will need to be understanding and if you actively start behaving as a flexible team member, your leadership skills will improve.

What you should know

If you haven’t had the chance to do so already, get to know your team. That doesn’t just mean learn their names and what they do, it means getting to know them properly, through conversations and time.

Part of the benefit of this will be knowing what your colleagues’ strengths and weaknesses are. Even if you’re not in charge of putting people to work on certain tasks, it will be beneficial for you to know who is best suited to what.

Another way to develop your leadership skills in your organisation is to get to know the ins and outs of the company itself. Become familiar with its history, its ethos, its goals and how it plans to get there.

What you can do

The first lesson in leadership is all about taking initiative, so this is the main skill you should be developing from the very start of your career, long before you become a leader.

That means being proactive about coming up with your own ideas and solutions and bringing them to the table. Don’t wait for others to come up with ideas. Think outside the box and put yourself in the shoes of your boss. If you were the leader in this situation, what would you do?

You should also actively seek more responsibility when you can. This does not mean taking on more than you can handle; a good leader wouldn’t do that. Instead, acknowledge the areas you could take part in and improve. Not all initiative has to stem from completely new ideas.

Those in leadership positions didn’t become that way overnight, nor were they given a cheat sheet on how to lead effectively when they were handed the job. They became natural leaders throughout the course of their career and, if you want to, you can too.

Aside from being ready to lead when the opportunity is there for you, actively showing that you are developing these skills from early on in your career will demonstrate to people in charge that you are engaged and willing to grow, which could send you shooting up that leadership ladder faster than expected.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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