Whether or not you were born with the skills of a boss may not matter. New research says you can train yourself to lead
Whether you want to dominate that corner office someday, see a career in politics, or strive to take charge of a new project at work, most of us could benefit from a leadership skills refresher. The good news is that your ability to guide a group isn’t fixed—only about 30 percent of leadership is genetic. The other 70 percent depends on your life experience and is largely in your control. A new study from the University of Illinois breaks down the steps to developing your own boss skills.
Know Your Worth
“Leadership isn’t about power, or a pay raise, or a title,” says study author Kari Keating, Ph.D. “It’s about influencing others toward a common goal.” Think about a time a team you participated in made a positive impact. “You might not have been a project manager, but if your insight got the team unstuck, you were practicing leadership,” says Keating. Once you’ve changed your mindset about what leadership is, it’ll be easier to imagine yourself as a leader.
Once you can picture yourself in a leadership role, your motivation will follow. “You’ll start to raise your hand when someone asks for a volunteer to take over a project,” says Keating. When you see opportunities, say yes, even if you don’t see an immediate motivation, like a raise or promotion.
Leadership is a learn-by-doing skill, says Keating, so push yourself out of your comfort zone. “You build it by taking risks, volunteering for take-charge positions, and just doing it over and over again. Every time you do it, you have the chance to develop your abilities.” A mentor can help you reflect on the experiences and learn from them. To keep the leadership education going, turn to two of Keating’s favorite books on leadership: True North by Bill George, and The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.