How to Stand Out as a Leader

Leadership Research Paper

Are you ready to take the next step in your career and make a difference? Leadership isn’t the easiest path, but it is a meaningful and potentially rewarding one. True leaders overcome adversity to earn and keep their positions of authority and influence with these qualities and practices.

Have a plan

Whether you’re just starting out in your career and angling for a leadership position, or already established, you can stand out from the crowd, gain influence and achieve more by knowing where you need to go and having a plan to get there.

Knowing where you need to go starts with asking the right questions. This is often expressed as the “why behind the what”. If someone senior to you is giving you projects, understanding the reason behind the specifics of what you’re being asked for can help you deliver an outcome that impresses. It’s also helpful for your team. Communicating what matters, and why, helps your team deliver better outcomes and internalize confidence in your leadership.

However, having vision and understanding the why behind where you’re going or what you’re doing isn’t quite enough. You also need to be able to take practical, strategic steps toward that goal. You can work with specialists and subject matter experts to identify the right steps, but if you don’t have the ability to bridge the gap between vision and outcome, then you won’t succeed as a leader.

Stand for the right things

Character and integrity are important for everyone, but especially in leaders, because your actions are amplified and you need people to want to follow you. Integrity is less about your actual beliefs or principles, and more about consistency. Consistency is important, because people need to know what to expect from you. It builds trust and helps them navigate the relationship with more comfort. Trusted leaders don’t have to work as hard to motivate people to follow and produce results.

Get comfortable with change

Leaders who see change as an opportunity rather than as a barrier stand out from the crowd. It’s human nature to have some fear of change, and all of us have different processing times and needs to adjust to changes in our environment, but the reality is that change is a fact of life. You will encounter many types of change over the course of your career. Social norms change. Financial realities change, from the local level right up to international economics. Career directions change.

Your response to change will define your career and your leadership. You can look to historic and contemporary leaders to see how this works. Mark Green, a Senatorial candidate in Tennessee, started in the US military, had a career in medicine and business, and moved into politics in the latter part of his career. Look at each change as an opportunity to build on previous experiences and bring them to your current endeavor. This practice also sets the example for your team and builds connection with more types of people.

Be a listener

Many people think of leadership as being the one up front doing all the talking and giving orders, but leaders who know how to listen well stand out from the crowd. There’s a trick to knowing how to listen to the right people at the right times and filter what you hear. You need to listen to learn and actively listen by asking questions to drill down into what matters. Listening recognizes that you don’t know everything and that what others have to offer has value. It shows a willingness to step back and confidence, because it demonstrates that your power can’t be subverted.

Develop others

Great leaders know that they can’t do it all alone. They actively develop the confidence, power and leadership qualities of others. Again, this demonstrates confidence because it shows that you don’t fear your power being usurped. It also builds investment, trust and loyalty in your team. Finally, it actively helps you reach goals by improving your knowledge of your team members and the quality of their skills. Even if those team members move on to other teams, it’s a sum benefit because you have a strong network and well-established relationships with a community of fellow leaders.

Being a developer dovetails with many other qualities of a great leader, including active listening and getting comfortable with change. It is often a mark of integrity and character, and builds connection because people around you see it as being altruistic and caring.

You can stand out as a leader by getting clear on the why behind the what, and then building a plan to get there, trusting, listening to, and developing others, and getting comfortable with change. These skills will help you build your career and move into positions of greater trust and authority, as well as serving established leaders well.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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