Management expert and author Tom Peters has defined leadership as an ability to make people better than they believe they can be. As simple as this sounds, it's incredibly difficult to achieve—and you know this, because you have witnessed first-hand poor leadership. This is your chance to embrace your career development and take action to make you even better than you could imagine.
1. Hang with smart people. There is so much to learn. This is true for people just entering the workforce as well as for those closing in on retirement. Great leaders realize they don't know all the answers and are aware of their weaknesses and strengths. Learn from the best peace-keeper, the best negotiator, the best strategic thinker, and the best friendly face. Each one of them has a lesson or two to teach you if you're willing to listen.
2. Take initiative. Do you cast blame or get frustrated when people who should take responsibility don't? Do you wait for others to notice problems that need solving? Taking initiative means you don't wait to be told what to do. You seek answers to solve problems and appropriately convey your findings. Be aware of the fine line between being compliant and being insubordinate.
3. Collaborate. Leaders know they can't solve a problem on their own. This is why they bring together people with proven expertise. You can develop a knack for gathering people from different teams, divisions, groups, and sometimes even companies, to work toward a solution or new ideas. Successful collaboration results in blended ideas from inside a company as well as outside.
4. Stay true to your moral compass. A good leader knows right from wrong. Since you were young, you have been taught the difference between right and wrong. So why do some leaders lie, cheat, and steal? Does the line between right and wrong become blurred? Do they think they won't get caught? Do they succumb to external pressures? Or do they think their actions won't hurt anyone? Your integrity is your legacy and your future. Be sure to keep it in tip-top shape.
5. Treat everyone with respect. Who would have thought this even needed to be said, but it does. No one is below you, nor is anyone above you. We are all human beings and should treat one another with respect, regardless of position or title held. The CEO or president is a person too. They do not walk on water, nor are they more important than the IT technician or receptionist. Some may argue this point; however, without input from a variety of people with varying skills, there would be no organization. The message is that everyone deserves the right to be heard.
6. Be proactive. Often managers do a good job guiding and evaluating your performance, but not always. Proactively suggest you meet with your manager more regularly. Set mutually agreeable terms for the meeting's purpose and outcomes in advance. Do your part by arriving at the meeting prepared to discuss successes, challenges, and potential solutions and check to see if your priorities align with your manager's. Ask specific questions and remember, this is a discussion between two people, so feel free to add your opinions as appropriate.
7. Give the best you can each day. Some days you perform better than others; that's just how humans work. You aren't perfect and sometimes you might even fail miserably. Leaders don't make excuses, they admit their errors and get back on track. Make this your philosophy too. However, if you continually find yourself missing the mark, ask yourself if you're in the right environment, role, or company. When you use your best skills, it isn't hard to give your best every day.
Hannah Morgan is a speaker and author providing no-nonsense career advice; she guides job seekers and helps them navigate today's treacherous job search terrain. Hannah shares information about the latest trends, such as reputation management, social networking strategies, and other effective search techniques on her blog, Career Sherpa.