10 Ways to Show Leadership at Work

A common workplace mistake, especially during the early stages of your career, is to assume leadership comes from a job title. The truth is that anyone can be a leader in the workplace if they demonstrate the right attitude. Here are 10 ways you can show leadership and stand out from the pack.


1. Own your mistakes.

It’s hard to walk into your boss’s office and say you’ve messed up, but it’s one of the most mature steps you can take. Your supervisor would rather find out about a mistake from you than from their supervisor—and find out as early as possible so the situation can be mitigated. Bonus points if you can pair the bad news with potential solutions!

2. Volunteer when an extra hand is needed.

Most job descriptions contain the ominous words “other duties as assigned,” and supervisors notice how employees respond to them. If you’re the type of person who is willing to stuff envelopes before a conference or pitch in during office clean-up, your efforts will be noticed. (You don’t want to be caught saying, “But that’s not my job.”)

3. Ask appropriate questions when you have the chance.

Company town halls are often an exercise in frustration for upper management. Such events are held to increase employee engagement, but then when it comes time for Q&A, no one asks any questions. Asking professional questions (that won’t frustrate your immediate supervisor) is a good way to stand out from the crowd.

4. Keep your word.

This should be a no-brainer, but if you say you’re going to do something by a certain time, do it, and watch your supervisor’s trust in you grow exponentially. Keeping your word can be as simple as arriving to work on time and meeting simple deadlines without being reminded.

5. Be aware of the big picture.

This is closely related to never saying, “But that’s not my job.” A leader sees the big picture beyond their specific assignments. Take the initiative to learn about your industry, your company’s strategic plan, and how your department’s work and your specific assignments fit into achieving those goals. Having this perspective will also make you more understanding of the challenges faced by not only your supervisor but also their managers.

6. Communicate professionally and effectively.

Whether you’re sending an email, making a phone call, or communicating via chat, make sure your message is clear, concise, and professional. Use spell-check and proper punctuation in writing. Know when it’s OK to use a GIF or emoji. Practice leaving voicemails that don’t ramble.

7. Be resourceful.

One frequently hears, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question,” but sometimes there are questions that shouldn’t need to be asked. Before you ask your boss how to do something or where to find specific information—particularly if it’s something you think you should probably already know—try to exhaust all possible resources first. Look at the company intranet, search the company website, ask a colleague, or even consult Google.

8. Mentor new colleagues.

Everybody is new at some point. You can help show new employees the ropes either informally or formally if your company has some sort of ambassador program. This helps establish you as an expert on your workplace culture and a go-to for other team members.

9. Get involved with your profession outside of work.

Can you join a professional association? Can you assist students in your field at a local college or university? Are there advanced certifications you can pursue? Any of these opportunities will not only demonstrate your interest in professional growth and leadership but also help you network with others—which could prove useful when you are ready for a promotion.

10. Be positive when faced with change.

Change is inevitable, and how you react to it is perhaps the biggest sign of leadership of all. If you can react with flexibility and as much positivity as possible, you’ll be well positioned to take on new roles and, yes, even new titles.

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