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How to Be a Leader When You’re Not Naturally One: Your Ultimate Guide

Are you offered a leadership role in your job but don’t feel qualified? Maybe you’re already a leader looking to improve. Or, maybe you just want to demonstrate leadership as an employee. 

Whatever the case, you’re here because you want to start acting like a leader. However, you only have one problem – you’re an introvert or you’re not a born leader. Welcome to your ultimate guide on how to be a leader when you’re not naturally one. 

Here, I’ll first show you the importance of leadership in the workplace. I’ll then list some helpful tips on how to lead when you’re not a natural born leader. 

Here’s a quote from John Eades, a Leadership Development Coach, to inspire you:

If someone tells you they were born a leader, don’t believe them. No one is born a leader, but people do develop into one. While some of the most outstanding leaders of all time were born with some leadership DNA, they still had to work to develop their skills over their journey.

Read More: Life Of A Leader – What A Leader Does Everyday To Be Successful

Why Are Leadership Skills Important in the Workplace

In a 2023 survey, Thrive My Way discovered that 50% of employees left their jobs because of a bad leader. That’s half the people that quit their jobs! This tells you something about the impact of a bad and great leader. 

Now, effective leadership abilities can produce a positive work environment. Here are some reasons why I say this:

  • It promotes team collaboration. A skilled leader can guide team members and facilitate good communication. In turn, this will improve teamwork and productivity. 
  • It encourages better decision-making. An effective leader knows how to analyze situations, weigh options, and make informed choices. They also know how to communicate all that to everyone. When this happens, the whole team can move forward with clarity and purpose. 
  • It motivates and boosts morale. A good leader always sets a positive example. More than that, they provide encouragement, recognize achievements, and offer constructive feedback. Here’s a quick stat that proves my point. A study by Zipdo shows that 80% of employees become motivated to work harder when given regular feedback.
  • It resolves conflicts. Bad leaders tend to run away from or ignore conflicts. That’s not going to do any good. Someone with strong leadership skills, on the other hand, faces and addresses conflicts as soon as possible. They try to find a solution so that there will be a harmonious work environment.
  • It allows adaptability. Industries are rapidly changing every week, month, year… A good leader will help the team adapt quickly to these changes. They will encourage innovations, guide the team through changes, and foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement. 
  • It fosters responsibility. Leadership position or not, having this skill will make you more responsible for tasks. You’ll become reliable and a great contributor to the team’s success. Who knows, this might even lead to professional development opportunities. 

7 Helpful Tips to Become a Leader When You’re Not a Natural Born Leader

OK, let’s go back to your dilemma – how to be a leader when you’re not naturally one. You might say, “I’m a follower, not a leader.” Remember, no one is a natural leader. 

Annie Zelm, the Content Department Director at Kuno Creative, says:

In the past few years, I’ve learned that leaders don’t necessarily have to fit a certain mold to succeed. For instance, introverted leaders can be just as effective as their extroverted peers—potentially even more effective. And while all good leaders need to have expertise in some areas, they’re not necessarily the smartest person in the room (More often, they just know how to surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are.)

With that in mind, here are 7 tips that you can follow to help you become a great leader:

  1. Think of yourself as a leader 
  2. Know yourself
  3. Be proactive
  4. Focus on the fundamentals
  5. Improve your soft skills
  6. Demonstrate your care
  7. Lead by example

1. Think of yourself as a leader 

No, this doesn’t mean boost your ego. Instead, it means that you need to get rid of the thought that “Leadership doesn’t come naturally to me, so I can’t become an effective leader.” 

Annie Zelm shares her personal story:

It wasn’t that I didn’t care about the project; I just didn’t see myself as “leadership” material. I associated leaders with people who were confident, outgoing, and persuasive—all the things I wasn’t.

And yet, look at Zelm today. She’s a manager of a small team of digital writers for Kuno Creative, an inbound marketing agency. 

How did she do that? She first had to believe in herself. Something as simple as this is what will help you improve your leadership skills. A position of leadership starts with confidence. 

Read More: 15 Examples of Confidence in the Workplace to Unlock Success

2. Know yourself

Leadership comes when you know yourself – both your strengths and weaknesses. When you’re able to identify your strengths, you can improve on that and use it to become a better leader. As for your weaknesses, it’s a good idea to find ways to work on those areas. 

For example, say you’re a great communicator. Well, you can use your voice to encourage and help members of your team. You can even try public speaking, or at least speaking out in a team meeting. 

On the flip side, maybe your weakness is time management. To improve on that, you can set clear goals, prioritize tasks, create a schedule, etc… This will help you become better with your time. 

3. Be proactive

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, proactive means “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes”. You can already tell this trait makes a great leader. 

I know what you’re thinking, “No, no, no. I’m not like that at all.” Remember, self-confidence is key. You’ll never become proactive if you don’t try.

For this, make it a habit to participate in forward thinking and initiatives. When you start a new project, come up with issues that might happen. From there, develop an alternative plan to address those issues. It doesn’t have to be right. At this point, treat it like a game in your head. 

Read More: How to Get Ahead in Your Career by Being Proactive: A 10-Step Ladder to Success

4. Focus on the fundamentals

John Eades gives us a great example of this.

Leadership, in some ways, is like golf. For some people who have excellent hand-eye coordination, the game becomes more manageable than those that don’t. But even without excellent hand-eye, you can still play the game and get better at it by focusing on the fundamentals—grip, posture, balance, technique, and the mental game.

So what are the fundamentals to gain leadership potential? Build strong relationships, have good communication, be accountable, know the standards, and be a good coach. Work on these and you’ll be able to lead a team. 

5. Improve your soft skills

Here’s a shocking stat: 97% of employers say that soft skills are as important or more important than hard skills (according to a survey from SHRM).

So besides the fundamentals, you should also work on your soft skills. This includes communication, teamwork, time management, problem-solving, and critical thinking, to name a few. 

If you implement these skills, the rest of the team will start to see you as a leader, even if you aren’t. Whoever said “You don’t decide if you are a leader; others do” was right. 

Read More: 9 Most Sought-After Soft Skills In The Workplace

6. Demonstrate your care

Want an easy leadership hack? Then show your colleagues, managers, and supervisors that you care. Yes, even if you just treat them like how you would want to be treated is a big step forward. 

You might not have natural leadership, but caring for others is an area of improvement. You can provide your help or advice when someone is stressed. Even just looking at them in the eye when they talk to you shows that you care what they have to say. 

7. Lead by example 

What is a leader? Here’s how Elizabeth Perry from BetterUp puts it:

A leader is someone who inspires passion and motivation in followers. A leader is someone with a vision and the path to realizing it. A leader is someone who ensures their team has support and tools to achieve their goals.

Anyone can become a leader. How? You can start by setting an example. So always work hard, create a positive vibe, and promote behaviors and values you want to see in others. Be the kind of person you hope others will become! 

This alone is what makes a great leader. You don’t have to try so hard to be a leader. You just have to excel as a worker.  

Final Words

Leadership skills in the workplace are crucial. Yes, this is whether you’re in a leadership position or not. So how to be a leader when you’re not naturally one? Work on the 7 tips I provided. 

You can start small. From there, you’ll notice that your leadership will start to grow. Your team will start to turn to you to lead them to the best results. So work on these. Good luck!

About Author

Founder of Eggcellentwork.com. With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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