How do I become a leader?

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leaderI was just asked a simple question; how do I become a leader? The answer on the other hand is not easy. But I will try to provide some useful hints to aspiring leaders out there, with this 10 step to becoming a leader list.

Born to be wild
Some are natural born leaders, at least some claim so. I do not agree on this fact. Some do naturally have many leadership qualities, but it can all be learned. Some have natural authority by their very presence in the room, and some are deeply respected by their knowledge. There are a lot of ways to leadership, and some can be thought…

  1. Dare to challenge yourself.
    I always liked the idea of being where the action is since I was young. I dreamt of being school president and making a career in politics. But I did not dare to engage until I finished school. And when I did I had so much fun. You must dare to be different and you must dare to have an opinion. Always find new things that you want to try, like public speaking, engaging in politics, holding seminars and so on.
  2. Leadership can be thought
    If you are young, like early twenties, drop everything and get an education. Education is not a must to be a leader, but it might help you to get in position. But working your way to the top is also an option. Make sure that you work at a company where this is possible before giving it your heart. Working in a family owned business where nepotism is used will not get you anywhere. If education is not an option, look for evening classes and read a lot of books.
  3. Accept that you can fail
    As you start to lead you might try out new ways to do stuff. You might change things around and you might really mess things up. Always be humble to your changes and be open for changes along the path. I have made a lot of changes that later on needed improvements.
  4. Be honest
    As you start to climb the leadership ladder you will most likely have a boss that you report to. Be honest about your challenges, and what is not working. Do not try to hide negative numbers or incidents as the only result will be that you will not get help with the problems you are hiding.
  5. Take charge and rule the world
    A lot of people think that you need to be in position to lead. Being in position to lead is the lowest step in any leader evolution. People listen to you only because you have the power by the position you are hired to have. You can start to lead as an employee also. Be a good example, take charge on stuff that does not work, follow it up and make changes. You can also influence other people by being positive and motivate others by talking about goals and lifting the spirit. If you manage to follow up on things that doesn’t work and make things work, you will gain respect. Taking you into the second phase of leadership evolution, people do what you say because they respect you. You do not need a position for that.
  6. Start now!
    There is no reason to wait for a job opening. Start learning today. I would recommend that you start learning about coaching by reading books or attending a course. The more leadership knowledge and the further you get in the leadership evolution before getting into position, the greater the chances of success.
  7. Surround yourself with yes-people
    There is a lot of skeptics out there. People that claim that you cannot do it. I have great believes in the human mind, and if you really really so bad want something, you will eventually get it in the end. But you need to listen to those that say you can, and shut down those that use words like impossible.
  8. Be a role model
    Think, what would you do if you where your own boss? What behavior patterns would you accept? What dress code would you accept? What kind of engagement would you like to see in your employees? What would you like to see in your staff? Make a mental image of this and start acting this way.
  9. Leadership does not need to be work related!
    You might want to lead a local community group, your local sports club or some local charity? Maybe there is something deep inside you that you would like to do with your life? I would like to start a fundraiser to create green environmental schools that powers itself. Where the students can learn values of knowledge. Where they can be thought to see the possibilities within their own community. I would like to have these schools to be built in developing countries that have proven political stability for a while. I would need to meet up with engineers that can plan such a school, people that can implement a teaching program and organizations that can make it happen in the community. It is not impossible. I just need to take a lead. I am sure that a success in this would give much more in return than a success at work.
  10. Get a mentor or a coach!
    Find yourself a mentor or a coach that can help you to see what you need to focus on. This is a great help and a tool that will aid you in your success. I met with one coach that changed my whole outlook on life, and it helped me to reach the true goals of my life.

The Leadership evolution

I mentioned the leadership evolution a few times during this post. So I should explain it a little bit. When thinking of leadership evolution, a lot of people tend to think about promotions. You can get to the next level of leadership without a promotion. It is not about position at all, as I said, the position is the first level of leadership. I can put a dimwit in the CEO chair and people will do as he says for a while until they revolt. A position gives you the power of giving orders. People will follow your orders until a certain point.
Level 2 is respect. You have gained their respect because what you do seems to be correct and you are getting results.
Level 3 is socializing. People want to be around you because what you do is great and people like what you do.
Level 4 is admiring, when people admire you because you make them feel special or because what you do is of great benefit of the people you lead. You might earn them money or give them personal development. Whatever you do on this level people want to be a part of it.
Level 5 is empowerment. By this I mean that the people around you are empowered by you to provide the best results, and they work hard to make you a success because that will greatly benefit them.
But this levels work together in some ways. You will not stay on higher levels if you do not have respect, and you also need a position to be able to maximize your influence. And you might be on different levels with different people, resulting in your need to treat them differently.

I got one question, how do I become a leader? I tried to give you a short answer, but this is only a fragment of the answer. But you have one great advantage, you are reading this, and showing interest in leadership, how much effort you put in to it, and how far you want to go is up to you.
Good luck.

Do you have any other good advice to answer this question? How can someone become a leader?

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5 Comments on "How do I become a leader?"

  1. divya dwarak | July 13, 2009 at 4:04 pm |

    Dear Frode,
    Thankyou so very much for this wonderfull piece of advice. I would definetly take everything into consideration .And yes i am a part of a youth club and i do participate in lots of social activities. Will surely keep in touch
    and will let you know about i proceed my life..and due course..become a successful leader
    take care
    good luck 🙂

  2. Frode Heimen | July 12, 2009 at 6:22 am |

    Hi Divya Dwarak.
    I am glad you are getting more confidence. Being a young leader is hard, and you need to treat everybody with respect as you become a leader. And you must be humble to the fact that you might do many things wrong as you do not have the experience or knowledge to be flawless. And as a leader you will always do something wrong, I still do, Barack Obama does. How great you will be is about how you act upon things you do wrong, do not hide the fact, and rather do take responsibility and fix things up.

    You are young; this means that you have every possible opportunity that the world has to offer. I do not know you good enough to say what you should do, so I am going to give you an advice based on what I would do at the age of 18. – First of all, stop worrying about this job, at the age of twenty you might have another job already. Do not stress to become a leader. Start by working hard on the floor. But you have potential as you are reading about leadership. Continue to do so. Buy books about coaching. I would recommend you to start with: Co-Active Coaching, 2nd Edition: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and, Life But make sure to buy more than one.
    It is not impossible to be a leader at the age of 18, but you will have problems with the lack of experience.

    My last advice is this: Continue to gather knowledge, read about leadership, coaching and motivation. Do not stress about getting a leadership job, as it will come eventually as you knowledge starts to show. You are young, try to get back to school, if it is hard, you still can sacrifice 6-10 years to reach your goals and still have plenty of time to be a leader. Try to get leadership experience in volunteer organizations or some youth club or any of work activity. – And if you continue to learn you will become as great as you want to be. Good luck, and keep in touch.

  3. divya dwarak | July 12, 2009 at 5:03 am |

    Frode,
    i am an 18 year old ungraduate student.
    Right now i am attending a leadership trainning programme. This programme has brought in lots of confidence in me and i am also learning loads in the process. My question is ,how do i give a convincing speech to the people around so that i can be the team leader for the next session.
    I am afraid that it might not work out because i am younger to most of them there,but still there are many students who have already become leaders. I too wana be one. how should my speech be?

  4. Frode Heimen | June 11, 2009 at 5:15 pm |

    Steve:
    So you have been a drill instructor, I worked at the switch board during my time in the army, no wonder I work in a call center 🙂 #9 is important, and you are right, it is a good training ground to develop at. I tried to be an active politician myself, but found out that it was too time consuming at that stage of my life, but it was a useful experience. I would like to be engaged in politics again later on. Cheers for the drill instructor!

  5. Frode,

    I laughed when I saw the photo of the Drill Instructor, as that was one of my roles in the military (and the hard-earned hat still sits honorably on my closet shelf).

    Your #9 is something that people should very strongly consider. There are all kinds of skills one can develop through local clubs and organizations. The lessons are the same and often the consequences of mistakes aren’t as serious as on-the-job errors. Consider these “professional development for free” opportunities.

    Very thorough post…

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