Being a leader is much more than a job position. It’s more than your personality, and you don’t have to be born charismatic and friendly to lead. Leadership is more of a choice than anything else. It involves changing your entire mindset to embrace leadership opportunities that come your way.
Once you’ve developed the right mindset, you’ll spur yourself into action. “The only way to think like a leader is to first act: to plunge yourself into new projects and activities, interact with very different kinds of people, and experiment with unfamiliar ways of getting things done,” says Herminia Ibarra in her book Act Like a Leader, Think Like A Leader. “In times of transition and uncertainty, thinking and introspection should follow action and experimentation – not vice versa.”
If you want to see yourself taking on the traits of leadership, there may be a few things you’ll need to change or enhance about yourself. Use this list to help you find ways to look and act more like a leader.
1. Use Your Emotional Intelligence
In an interview with NBC News, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation and author of the book Executive Presence, said that she believes one of the biggest mistakes people make when seeking leadership is underestimating the power of emotional intelligence, especially for women.
“It’s what you signal, what you’re telegraphing in terms of your body language, how you dress, how you speak, how you communicate your heft and your weight in this world,” she says. “It’s 30 percent of what makes a difference, and I think women in general like to downplay this because it is easier, and perhaps less risky.” Hewlett encourages leaders to stand up and use their emotions for their success rather than their downfall.
2. Improve Your Appearance
Little things about your appearance will make a big difference. Your haircut and style, proper grooming, suits and/or dresses, shoes, and tailored clothing have a huge impact on how people perceive you.
The way you hold yourself also says a lot about your propensity for leadership. Walking with a confident, but non-cocky, swagger and sitting up straight in your chair send the message that you’re in charge and in control of a room and situation.
3. Be Healthy
You’ll very rarely see a CEO in the Fortune 500 that’s not physically fit and relatively healthy. They know first that being in an executive position is a high-stress job and they need to be as healthy as possible to reduce stress and remain there. Secondly, they recognize how their performance directly correlates with their health and well-being.
Unilever CEO Paul Polman, for example, gets up every morning at 6 a.m. so he can run on the treadmill in his office before work. Andrea Jung, former CEO of Avon Products, said she made it a priority to head to the gym at 5am every morning before work. A healthy lifestyle is key to their appearance and performance as leaders.
4. Avoid Negativity and Putdowns
Dabbling in negative interactions will only yield a negative presence. Leaders don’t publicly belittle themselves or downplay their talents. The best of leaders will exude a sort of positivity and optimism that makes people want to be around them. They’ll communicate easily and avoid pessimistic thinking that can hinder progress. When adjustments need to be made, they’ll be addressed with progress in mind rather than regression.
5. Show Passion
Enthusiasm in the industry is a fundamental part of being a leader. No one will follow someone who shows little interest and investment in the task at hand. As Steve Jobs once said, “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.”
If you don’t currently have a passion for what you’re doing, find it. Remember that leadership is a choice, and so are the traits that make up a great leader. Look for the things about your work that set your soul on fire, and use that to encourage a sense of inspiration that will demand followers.
Anna Johansson is a contributor to BusinessTown.com