We all have an idea that pops into our heads when we think of leadership: we think of someone calling the shots, someone at the helm of the decision making, a big shadowy boss figure, a president, a CEO, a manager, someone who is in charge and has followers doing his bidding. However, being a boss or being in charge, and being a leader are two very distinct things.

Anyone can be a leader.

I know it sounds like a typical sound-byte, but here are some of the traits of leaders: Imagination, intelligence, courage, resilience, and passion. None of those traits are unique to being in any particular position but they are traits that easily propel you to stand out from the crowd. Imagination, passion and intelligence will you great ideas and a clear vision, but courage and resilience will determine those who will succeed in the long run.

Lead with influence, not authority

It is very easy, especially when you are in an ‘oga’ position to let power get to your head and start bossing people around. But that actually shows poor leadership skills. A true leader understands that he or she must actually earn the right to lead; by being trustworthy and being compelling enough to inspire people to willingly follow. At every rung of the chain, we are all in a position to influence our teammates positively, boost morale, empower and inspire others. People like this are who make the most impactful and powerful leaders, not those who abuse their authority.

Lead by example

Is there something people are unwilling to participate in? Is there an initiative that no-one is making any efforts to kick off. Is there something that everyone keeps talking about doing, but noone is actually making the moves to do it? Someone who shows leadership skills steps up to the plate takes ownership of driving an idea or a plan in order to spur his teammates into action. When you exemplify the values of your organization you are a constant reminder to your team that they too can step up their game, and not make excuses. This doesn’t have to just be huge tasks, it could be something as small as organizing clearing out a particular area or doing some research into something that can benefit the whole company.

Understand how you fit into the bigger picture

Sometimes the sum of our efforts is based on the importance we place on our role. We hear all the time that every single person within an organization matters in achieving the overarching goal, but sometimes when you feel like just a cog in the wheel it’s hard to understand where you fit in, and this can make us lose enthusiasm in our work. Understanding the basic strategy and purpose of your organization and always keeping it top of mind, knowing where your department fits in and how your work contributes to supporting that purpose allows you to strive for excellence in all that you do.

Do the hard things

Challenge yourself. Step into bigger shoes. Tackle a task that you think is daunting and push yourself to see it through. Develop yourself and your skills. Take online courses, read more, and sharpen your expertise. Learn not only the skills of your craft, but also soft skills that help you succeed generally — communication, empathy, collaboration, emotional intelligence. You do not have to wait to be promoted or to be prompted by company training; by constantly working on yourself you are showing your dedication to your growth and your organization will quickly recognize your value.

Anyone can learn to be a leader, even amongst their peers. The differentiating factor for most businesses will be the quality of their leadership. This doesn’t fall only to the leadership team; At Paga we encourage and empower all our team members to be leaders, by giving them full ownership of their roles and allowing them room to grow and also, to fail. To make small decisions and big ones, and to step up to bringing and driving initiatives.

Unusually excellent leadership starts from the bottom, is compelling & trustworthy, leads by example, and leads with empathy.

Want to learn more about leadership? You can start with this short course.

You got this!

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