When we think about leaders in the workplace, we might immediately think of people with “leadership” titles: boss, manager, CEO, supervisor. We don’t necessarily think about the new hire, administrative assistant, or member of the IT department.
But how do we break that mold? Effective leadership isn’t defined by being the most vocal or having the best ideas or having the largest team under you. It can be quiet, supportive, and subtle. A workplace full of thoughtful leaders promotes inclusivity and creates a welcoming, solid foundation to grow together.
So, whether or not “manager” or “executive” is in your job description, you can be an effective leader at work–a passionate person that motivates and supports others.
Here are a few simple ways to grow your leadership in the workplace:
Good leaders don’t point fingers or blame other employees when things go south. It’s simple enough to say “my colleague should have read the contract more closely and not messed up the payment”. But, take a step back to reflect. Did your colleague come to you with questions and did you give them the appropriate time and attention? If your colleague didn’t come to you with questions, why is that? Do they feel too nervous to ask for your help or think that you’ll turn them away?
Even if you feel you did everything correctly, stay accountable and ask your team, “was there something I could have done differently?” or “I’m trying to rethink my approach, do you have any suggestions?”.
By examining and acknowledging your own part–large or small–in a workplace mistake, you create space for your coworkers and colleagues to collaborate and make things better the next time around. Be vocal about what you could change and create an action plan with your coworkers to avoid a similar pitfall in the future.
Leadership isn’t always about taking charge or asserting yourself in the workplace. Counterintuitively, it can be just as effective to take a step back and highlight your colleagues’ hard work and effort.
Say, for example, that your coworker tried to step up in a meeting and share a new sales strategy, but the group glossed over her idea. Show your support by saying, “I wanted to build off of what Reina was saying,” or “Can we circle back to Reina’s idea? I think she was on the right track”.
Perhaps you’ve noticed an associate taking special care to keep the supply room organized. Let them know that you noticed and that you appreciate their effort.
By recognizing your colleagues for what they bring to the table, you create an environment where everyone feels valued for their contributions.
Keep it Professional:
Effective leaders don’t speak badly about other employees, ever. We spend over a third of every weekday with our coworkers and inevitability, someone will get on your nerves. Having a common enemy is one of the quickest ways to bond with new people, but in the workplace, it’s also the fastest way to create permanent discord.
If you’re in a management position, consider the long-term ramifications of casually complaining about one employee to one of your coworkers. If your gripes get back to the employee in question, they are no longer incentivized to work hard for you. Even if the conversation stays between you and the colleague you complained to, your colleague will now wonder, “would my boss talk this way about me if I messed up?”
Even if you aren’t a manager or supervisor, you can still be a leader by avoiding complaining about your coworkers, at least in the workplace. If someone does corner you into one of these conversations, consider deflecting or changing the subject.
Whether you’re starting a new job or hoping to bring fresh energy to your current job, engaging in effective leadership practices will help you form meaningful connections and improve your workplace experience.