Leaders come in all forms and from all professional levels. Leadership may not be a technical requirement in your current role, but don't let that limit how you present yourself in the office. Moving forward in any position will call for you to take on more responsibilities, accountability, and often management. How can you work on being a good leader before it's part of your job description?
Don't wait for someone to tell you to be a leader
Maybe you've got a plan in place: You want take on a new role in two years, so a year from now you'll start expressing an interest in taking on more responsibilities. You could do that, but take a step back. You're not confined to what your job description says! Think of the bullet points that define your position as guidelines to jump off of — here are the daily or weekly activities that you're expected to contribute, but you're definitely not limited to them.
That's the key here: limits. In the words of Cady Heron: "The limit does not exist." Whether you're an individual contributor or in management role, you're hopefully at a company to make it better. Innovation and collaboration aren't meant to come from just a handful of employees at the top. The first step is to get away from the idea that something isn't your responsibility.
Grab a shovel
(Metaphorically, of course.) Good leaders take on more than what's expected of them. This could come in the form of helping out fellow employees, getting involved in a group project, or just generally stepping out of your comfort zone. Building a work environment centered around teamwork is imperative for employees (and your business) to thrive.
Working outside your territory doesn't mean you have to wait for a fellow employee to ask you for help; try taking the first step and ask them if you can get involved. There's a common assumption that you're stepping on someone's toes if you help out with a project not directly related to your duties, but it's all about how you approach the situation. If you want to play it safe, bring the idea up to your manager first to see if you're able to allocate time to the assignment.
Establish who's in charge of what to eliminate any possible confusion. This will also prevent any overstepping and will allow people to be held accountable for their piece of the puzzle. Hiring great employees will also facilitate an environment in which collaboration like this will be a natural progression.
Crack a smile
Taking on extra work is only half of the battle. Showing you can maintain a professional attitude while adding more things to your to-do list is the other half. Staying organized and level-headed proves you don't just want more responsibilities — you can actually handle them.
Working with peers won't always be easy, so keep your eyes on the prize. A leader practices patience and combats stress by solving problems. When you feel like you're hitting a dead end, try to find ways around the issue. Whether it's a difficult coworker or a situation you haven't encountered before, these are challenges that contribute to moving your way up the ladder. A simple smile and bit of humor from time to time can ease stressful situations and make people more relaxed collaborators.
Drop the excuses
You have to first get yourself past the misconceptions floating around the corporate world: “Oh, that’s not my job." "Someone else will take care of this," and "I wish this were better in our office, but what can I do about it?" Getting over these humps will get you on your way to embodying the strong traits of a leader.
Having a healthy company culture to set employees up for success is necessary for attracting the right employees. Once you're in the door, it's your responsibility to use the tools at your disposal to be the best employee, and eventually leader, that you want to be.