It has often been said that if you dream about something, then you can definitely achieve it. When it comes to leadership, it is no different. You do not have to wait for the big fat promotion, and the office with a spectacular view to actually start acting like a leader.
Even if you are still at the entry level, there are numerous ways to demonstrate your leadership skills early on that will aid you to reach your desired goal faster.
If you aim to become an executive director at your bank for instance, and you joined the workforce a year ago, then it is not too early or unwise to start preparing for that role from now.
Not only does planning for that position, assuming more responsibility and demonstrating leadership skills at an early stage provide good practise for you, but it will also increase your chance of getting that promotion sooner as people in your organisation will start noticing your leadership traits and potential.
Here are several ways you could start practising your leadership skills:
First and foremost, do your current job well. Do not let your dreams and ambitions distract you from excelling at your current role. It is your first step to getting noticed. Do not leave room for your peers and upper management to question your performance.
Be there for your boss. If you see that he/she is a bit troubled, offer to assist. Tend to say yes more when your boss asks you to do extra work. Be flexible. Show your boss that you are willing to take part in upcoming projects. If you can come up with ideas on how to tackle different problems, then that would be a plus.
Offer to help set up initiatives at work beyond your responsibilities such as organising a social gathering, helping to solve a conflict between peers or simply assist and volunteer to help out or stand at conventions and exhibitions. This will portray your teamwork and leadership skills.
Look for areas at work to enhance what has not been tackled by your organisation yet. There are always issues in every organisation that nobody is paying attention to.
For example, you might know about a different way to market a product or a way to cut production cost. Or you could analyse how a specific change could help to better portray the organisation.
A good friend of mine became a deputy manager at her department after only a couple of years at her organisation. She reached this position by continuously challenging herself. At work, she always looked for ways to enhance her organisation's performance and assumed new responsibilities without being asked. Not once did she walk into her manager's office and ask about a promotion. She always thought that if she did great, inevitably the title will come along. And it did.
This takes us to role models and following good examples. Look for role models in your organisation. Monitor how they act, talk and manage different projects.
If possible, volunteer to assist them on a new project they are handling or ask the members of your human resource department if you could be offered a one-day orientation with them to view the nature of their work. Identify the behavioural characteristics you admire about them and try to adopt them while staying true to yourself.
Build a solid network in your organisation. It has often been said that it is not what you know, but who you know. Interact with your colleagues and senior managers. Be social, but do not let that negatively affect your work. When it is time to consider promoting you, your manager might consult a few people around you, so it is always beneficial to have a good support group.
Last but not least, do not exert authority when you do not have any. Be humble yet confident and do not put yourself first before your team members. Remember there is no "I" in team.
Many would argue that leaders are born and not trained. I beg to differ. Just like learning how to ride a bike or drive that Formula One car, leadership can be taught, and constant practice is key.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and fashion designer based in Abu Dhabi. Follow her on Twitter: @manar_alhinai