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Not a "leader" yet? It's never too late—or too early to learn Not a "leader" yet? It's never too late—or too early to learn
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Grow Your Career

Not a "leader" yet? It's never too late—or too early to learn

4 ways to command others no matter where you are in your career

Even on day one at a new job, an entry-level employee can lead. Leadership is a quality that everyone has, but only some wield. Business authors and deans at Santa Clara University, Barry Posner and James Kouzes, say it best: "The truth is the best leaders are the best learners." And we are all learners.

In their new book, Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader (Wiley, 2016), the authors topple the myth that some people are leadership material while others are not. "Leadership is a set of abilities, and like any other skill-set it can be learned and improved."

Because leading is a fundamental, democratic skill, we're outlining a few key insights from established leaders about how to forge ahead within the next generation of leaders.

1. Tap Into the Power of Humility

That means swallowing your pride, say Posner and Kouzes. In lieu of deferring your opinion, be conscious of the weight of your opinion balanced against the thoughts and ideas of others. Remembering that no one is better than another levels the playing field and makes a leader more open-minded.

2. Listen Twice as Much As You Talk

Another leadership icon takes humility to the next level. As the Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon once shared, "It's not just that you are recognizing other people. At the heart of recognition is, you're acknowledging you don't know it all. You're acknowledging other people are really good. You're applauding other people for their contributions. You're telling them that you want to hear what they have to say."

Indeed, the truest way to discern your opinion is by gathering information and actively listening to subject matter experts, among them colleagues, partners, market thought leaders and—most importantly—your fellow employees.

3. Be Open to Taking Career Risks

Listening doesn't mean taking a back seat. Tech executive and leadership activist Sheryl Sandberg tackles the idea of collaborating and prompts her audience of future leaders (mainly, women) to skip the people-pleasing in her buzzed-about book . One key takeaway from Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (Deckle Edge, 2013) was to jump for a leadership opportunity even if you are only 60 percent certain you have the skills. Rely on your own ability to work strategically, and then improvise, learn and grow your way into making memorable contributions.

4. Draw Assurance From Life Experience

While leadership confidence comes partly from experience, that doesn't mean having little to none makes a lesser leader. Most millennials have already demonstrated aspects of leadership whether they have realized it or not. Recent graduates can—and should—leverage their experience working in teams, within their families and/or in their communities, applying acquired strategies in the workplace. Confidence can help us all take the steps required to be great leaders.

5. Invest In Your Strengths

Another confidence booster is uncovering your personal strengths, as well as those of who you influence. Leadership consultant Barry Conchie and New York Times best-selling author Tom Rath share that this is something most effective leaders do. After all, leaders—and their teams—aren't made the same; each have different strengths, from influencing and relationship-building to strategic thinking and executing.

In their book, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, Conchie and Rath document that identifying employees' strengths can even increase engagement in the workplace by up to 800 percent.

So whether it's the ability to innovate, initiate, anticipate, collaborate or negotiate, there are simple, actionable ways to highlight the leadership traits you already have and be assertive in any role. Start by leading yourself toward success; the rest—and others—will follow.

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