6 keys to becoming a recognized business leader

Most people I know in business start by taking advantage of technical strength or a passion for change, such as engineering, or focusing on the environment. They don’t realize that it takes more to succeed in business or career – leadership skills are needed to get people to follow you, including colleagues, team, business partners and customers. Fortunately, you can learn the necessary leadership skills.

Of course, you can always ride someone’s tail and let him lead while you do the hard work in the shade. But I suspect that this will not give you much satisfaction in the long run and you may never achieve your ultimate goals.

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

1. Repel your fear of taking a leadership position.

Start now by building a vision of your future self as a leader, not as a follower. Deliberately step out of your comfort zone often enough until the fear and discomfort disappear and you develop a new way of thinking to enjoy the act of attracting others to follow your guidance in new directions.

In my experience, the most common concern of business professionals is the fear of failure. Yet any successful leader will tell you that some failures are normal along the way and are necessary for learning and growth. Admit your mistakes and don’t make excuses.

2. Set goals for achievements outside your current strengths.

We all tend to focus on goals around what we are already doing well, rather than on goals that will require new learning, such as how to be a better leader. I urge you to force yourself to be a regular new learner, dealing with new problems, listening to expert mentors and finding time for leadership books.

It is also possible to turn your weaknesses into strengths by receiving guidance from trusted peers who have complementary skills, hiring people with the expertise you lack, and overcompensating with excellent training. Rely on the people around you to help you.

3. Celebrate small successes in your leadership efforts.

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

Sometimes ambitious leaders forget to divide their big goals into a set of smaller ones in the short term, so they don’t see progress. As a result, I am convinced that many of you will never see this magical moment when you finally feel successful as a leader.

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

There is always a need for someone to take the initiative in your favorite charity, community service or family planning. This will increase your confidence, support your training and give you practice to improve your leadership skills, which you can return to the office or business.

As another example, many entrepreneurs I know improve their leadership skills by taking on the roles of student mentors and younger peers. They soon find themselves more confident in building and leading a team in their own business or career.

5. Actively expand your business network to new domains.

Take the initiative to meet new leaders in your domain and related, business conferences and networking events. New people will give you new perspectives and challenge your own. Look for leaders who can be your role models in areas that are not your strength at the moment.

6. Redefine your work as leadership against achieving results.

As your business or career develops, you need to move from doing work to focusing on strategy and leadership. In fact, only you can do that. Many business professionals remain blocked in their current role and wonder why they never see them as leaders.

I find that many business professionals and entrepreneurs are jealous of others in leadership roles, but are reluctant to take the step in this area on their own. We hope that with the initiatives described here, you can dispel your fears and sharpen your leadership skills so that you can reach your potential as a leader. You can also achieve your dreams of business and personal success.

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

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