Leadership is not something I considered much when I entered the workforce after law school. The buzzword at the time was “management” and it seemed to me that being a manager reflected how important you were to the company and, consequently, how much you got paid. So, naturally, I aspired to be a manager. My ultimate goal back then was to get to the top of the food chain—to be the manager of managers—because I assumed it came with the biggest pay check and that was my definition of success. I never really thought of what happened after one got to the top, and I certainly didn’t contemplate leaving once I got there. But as I progressed in my career, I started noticing that some of the people I reported to were not just partners or heads of departments or senior executives. They had certain qualities to them that made me want to follow in their footsteps. They had a vision and a clear path to achieving it, they were approachable and accessible, and they were lifting people up. In short, they were leaders. Still, I was convinced that one had to be born a leader and I didn’t think I had it in me. Little did I know, as do now, that leadership is a muscle that we are all born with, but it is one that requires regular exercise for maximum effect.
Here are a few tips on how to develop that leadership muscle I picked up from various leaders I have had the pleasure of interacting with in recent years.
Grow your confidence. There are certain external factors that help us grow as leaders, including our family circumstances, the kind of schools and universities we attend, the people we befriend, and the hardships we go through. But there is nothing more vital to the leadership muscle than self-confidence. So how does one grow confidence? According to one of my mentors, it comes down to the power of the mind. Indeed, your subconscious mind is a powerful tool that manifests whatever it absorbs and imprints about you, so be careful what you tell yourself. For instance, if you’re constantly telling yourself that you are not good enough or that you will never amount to anything, it will probably affect your self-esteem and the decisions that you make for yourself. So it’s important that you avoid bashing yourself and that you replace negative self-talk with affirmations. Sometimes I'll make a mistake while working on a file and I'll suddenly hear a voice in my head saying: "You're so stupid." Fortunately, I have learned over time how to cancel that thought by affirming, "You are in the process of learning and it's okay to make mistakes." Another important aspect of building confidence is taking the time to identity why it is that you are putting yourself down at that particular moment. Usually, it comes down to fear, and the interesting thing I’ve come to realize is that fear doesn’t like light. Once exposed, it tends to dissapear.