6 keys to becoming a recognized leader in business

Most people I know in the business world start by harnessing technical strength or a passion for change, such as engineering, or focus on saving the environment. They don’t realize that it takes more to be successful in business or a career – it takes leadership skills to get people to follow you, including colleagues, a team, business partners, and customers. Fortunately, you can learn the necessary leadership skills.

Of course, you can always ride on someone’s flaps and let them do the lead, while you do the hard work in the shadows. But I suspect you won’t find it very satisfying in the long run and you may never reach your ultimate goals.

I recommend a proactive approach to making you think and act like a leader today, starting with a focus on these key strategies:

1. Push back the fear of taking a leadership position.

Start now to build a vision of your future self as a leader, rather than a follower. You intentionally step out of your comfort zone often enough until the fear and discomfort subsides and you develop a new mindset to enjoy the act of luring others to follow your lead in new directions.

In my experience, the most common scruple of business professionals is the fear of failure. However, any successful leader will tell you that some failures are normal along the way and necessary for learning and growth. Own your mistakes and make no excuses.

2. Set achievement goals outside of your current strengths.

We all tend to focus on goals that relate to what we already do well, rather than those that will dictate new learning, such as how to be a better leader. I urge you to strive to be a new regular student, tackling new problems, listening to experienced mentors, and making time for leadership books.

Plus, you can turn your weaknesses into strengths by getting guidance from colleagues you trust who have complementary skills, hiring people with the skills you lack, and overcompensating with excellent preparation. Count on the help of the people around you.

3. Celebrate the small successes in your leadership endeavors.

Becoming a leader takes time, so it’s important to recognize that it’s not going to happen all at once. You need to take credit for every little step in the right direction and use it as a motivation to tackle the next plateau. Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues and friends for feedback and progress reports.

Sometimes aspiring leaders forget to break down their big goals into a series of smaller goals for the short term, so they don’t see progress along the way. As a result, I am convinced that many of you will never see that magical moment when you finally feel success as a leader.

4. Accept leadership roles in safer non-corporate roles.

There is always a need for someone to take the lead in your favorite charity, community service, or family event. These will boost your confidence, aid your learning, and give you practice to improve your leadership skills that you can bring back to the office or company.

To take another example, many entrepreneurs I know improve their leadership skills by taking on mentoring roles for college students and younger peers. They soon find themselves more confident in building and leading a team in their business or career.

5. Actively expand your corporate network to new domains.

Take the initiative to meet new leaders in your domain and related domains, at business conferences and networking events. New people will give you new perspectives and challenge yours. Look for leaders who can be your role models for areas that aren’t your current strength.

6. Redefine your job as leadership instead of delivering results.

As your business or career matures, you need to move from work to focus on strategy and leadership. In fact, only you can make it happen. Many business professionals get stuck in their current role and wonder why they are never perceived as a leader.

I find that many professionals and entrepreneurs are jealous of others in leadership roles, but are reluctant to step into that domain on their own. Hopefully, with the initiatives outlined here, you can allay your fears and hone your leadership skills, to be able to realize your potential as a leader. You too can make your dreams of business and personal success come true.

The views expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.

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