Regardless of whether you are technically a “leader” in your organization, consciously developing your leadership presence will benefit you and position you well for opportunities.
Because there is so much emphasis on quantifiable results, it is easy to get caught up in constantly “doing.” Managers, especially high achievers who have been rewarded for their excellent task-related skills, are especially vulnerable to this type of thinking. But as a manager, you are no longer being evaluated on the (relatively) objective measure of your personal skills; you are now being judged on how others perceive your ability to influence and manage.
It’s rare that an executive has consciously decided what type of leader they want to be, and rarer still for executives to have determined how they will become that leader. Think about people you’ve worked with who you’d like to emulate. Or, if you’ve had a bad run of luck with supervisors, think about what would have made working with them a better experience. In order to construct a profile of the type of leader you want to be, imagine the comments you’d like to have others make about you.
Once you have a clear idea of your desired style, it can help to make a list of key behaviors that you believe are critical to model. Perhaps this would include statements like, “Consistently appears composed and in control regardless of circumstances,” or “Treats everyone, regardless of level, as potential contributors and listens to their input,” in order to give yourself a blueprint to follow. Review your list and start practicing these behaviors. Soon they will become second nature and you will become a role model for others. Worst-case scenario, as the novelist Catherine Aird said, “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.”