Four tips for becoming a leader at work no matter what your role is
"If you're looking to step into formal leadership, don't wait for a promotion. Act the part now."
That's the advice from leadership specialist and executive development expert Aviva Berzon for anyone wanting to move up in their organisation.
A lawyer by background, Aviva moved into executive development to help other people unlock their leadership capability. She now designs and facilitates on programs at Melbourne Business School including the Maximise Your Leadership Potential program for emerging managers.
Aviva says there are four ways that ambitious professionals can get themselves on the radar as a future leader, no matter where they currently sit within an organisation – and most of them come down to acting the part now.
"To get to the next level, you should already be operating at that level," Aviva says.
Put your hand up for a project
Through her work with corporate clients, Aviva has seen how current trends are offering more leadership opportunities than ever before thanks to agile and project-based work that give people the chance to show initiative and work across departments.
"People who put their hand up for projects and act with transparency are gaining more autonomy and the opportunity to lead in their own right," she says.
Key to getting into the mindset is to forget about where you sit in the organisational chart and take a proactive approach to thinking about what you can offer other people in the business.
"The challenge is for people to realise that 'a leader' isn't something you need to become, but can already be," says Aviva.
"When people can show leadership in their own role, their managers will trust them to help set vision, define strategy, make strategic decisions and think about the forces influencing the organisation."
Demonstrate leading by helping others
Leaders need to support their team and guide them in the interests of the organisation. A powerful way to demonstrate your ability to do that is by supporting other colleagues.
"Fewer managers are telling their people what to do, because they're encouraging them to be more active in their own roles – and this includes giving teammates your time and support," says Aviva.
Supporting teammates can include together coming up with solutions to problems affecting their area, as well as helping them with matters they are working on. The first step towards both is to start a dialogue and listen.
"Make time to have conversations with people around you – ask questions, really listen and be available," says Aviva.
Identify what's important to you
For many people, work isn't just about putting food on the table or making ends meet – they're hungry to work with purpose, which is something that the best leaders encourage.
To truly understand how to encourage the driver of other people, you should start by looking at your own.
"Business is changing and many people are looking to dedicate their time to causes beyond just the workplace. There's greater awareness of the community and scope for making a positive difference through work," says Aviva.
"Don't look for quick wins – instead look for work or projects that align with your values and encourage other people to do the same. This gives people motivation to be self-managed and act with integrity and commitment.
"To motivate yourself for leadership, ask yourself what your personal goals and interests are. What do you stand for? How can you use your role to achieve your goals? What do you want to focus on in 2019?
"Answering these questions will support you as you craft your own design of leadership in a way that is fulfilling and sustainable to you."
Look after your wellbeing
The final piece of advice from Aviva is one of the most important – and it only becomes more important as your career progresses and responsibility widens. It is that the best leaders manage their wellbeing as well as their performance.
"Working in flexible and agile ways needs to be counterbalanced by attending to your wellbeing. Having strategies to avoid burnout, sustain energy levels and improve resilience is a big focus this year amongst our clients," says Aviva.
"Wellbeing practices should be based on things that are important to you. This could include regular exercise, mindfulness, engaging a mentor or coach or deepening connections with your colleagues.
"Sustaining yourself will require discipline and also new ways of communicating to let people know what your main focus is for the year, what you're wanting to work on and how you are feeling.
"This level of openness will be key to help you step into your own leadership in 2019."