It’s the little things that ultimately turn the tide. Starting at the bottom of a company can be disheartening; you’re seemingly at a giant disadvantage right off the bat. But if you can change your perspective, and recognize that you’re not facing an insurmountable challenge, but instead, an opportunity, it can change everything. And your ascent to the top can start by making just a few changes or alterations to your behavior – changes that will command respect, win you allies, and earn you a leadership role.
Leaders, throughout history, have come in many forms. From the brutal, yet incredibly effective tactics of military commanders like Genghis Khan, to the relative benevolence of today’s business tycoons, there are many ways to win respect and prestige. The real trick is to put all of the pieces into place – to become someone that others will emulate and follow. While you may not be the most charismatic person in the world, or maybe not the most attractive, you can win people over with your attitude, actions, and your ability to communicate.
There are numerous strategies out there that can help you become a better leader. And you can spend a good amount of time reading up on them, or dissecting every angle of your individual circumstances. But at some point, it comes down to action. “He who dares, wins,” as they say.
So, what types of action are we talking about? Let your anxiety subside, because you don’t need to do anything big to start your odyssey; all it takes are some relatively small, subtle changes in how you interact, communicate, and carry yourself to get you started. Try incorporating these seven shifts into your workday, and garner more respect, and put yourself in a leadership role – even if your title doesn’t yet reflect it.
1. Show up early
An easy and effective way to get a jump on the day is to start your day earlier. Many successful CEOs and leaders get up at absurd hours, like 4 or 5 a.m. You don’t need to do that. But if you have some flexibility, try getting to work an hour earlier, and leaving an hour earlier. We all have co-workers who shuffle in at 10 a.m., and seem to be chronically behind on everything. Show up early, get to work, and set an example. It’s a subtle way to send a message.
2. Maintain your posture and make eye contact
Perhaps the simplest and most effective way to start building confidence is to fix the way you’re carrying yourself. Body language goes a long way, even if it’s only within our subconscious. If you’re sulking around, staring at the floor and mumbling, nobody is going to want to listen to you, or take you seriously. Stand up straight, look people in the eye when you address them, and carry yourself with a sense of confidence. You’ll be amazed at how far a couple of simple physical cues can go.
3. Speak with authority
Once you’ve fixed your posture and have started making eye contact, the next logical step is to work on how you’re actually speaking. As we just mentioned, speaking with or addressing others with a sense of confidence is key – and you’ll want to do so with authority. Be sure of yourself and speak softly, firmly, and with intention. Be sure that you’re not speaking from a place of ignorance, either, and know where and when to direct conversations if need be.
4. Use silence as a tool
Leapfrogging off of the previous point, sometimes the best move you can make is to forego your turn in a conversation. Silence can be a lot more powerful than words, in some cases, and the strategic use of breaks or silence in conversation or presentations can make a lasting impact. This is something that takes practice, of course, but a well-placed break can redirect a conversation and give you a strategic edge. It can also throw others off of their game. Silence makes people uncomfortable. So if you can become comfortable with it, you’ve given yourself an advantage.
5. Treat everyone with respect
Nobody likes a jerk. So don’t be one. It’s as simple as that. You’ll want to treat everyone – from the interns, to the janitor, to the bus driver – with respect. This speaks to a certain level of social skills, which are becoming more and more valuable on the labor market. Not only will you garner mutual respect between yourself, co-workers, and everyone else, but you’ll be setting a tone and example. You expect to be treated with kindness, fairness, and respect, and you should do the same for others. No matter who they are.
6. Do your homework
If you know that your company is switching software systems, or is bringing on a new client, go out of your way to give yourself an informational advantage. Do your homework. Read up on what’s going on, who your new clients or co-workers are, and use that information. Follow the news related to your industry, and never sit still. By making this a habit, you’ll never get caught with your proverbial pants down, and put yourself in a position to lead when rapid change – unexpected by many – sweeps into the office.
7. Lift others up
If you truly want to be a leader, you’ll need to recognize that the role means a whole lot more than just bossing people around. Jerks often make it to the top, but they may not be respected. To be an effective leader, you’re going to want to lead by example, and lift your co-workers and subordinates up. Take a ‘no man gets left behind’ sort of attitude to the job, and be sure to praise and give credit where credit is due. People will appreciate it, and it won’t go unnoticed.