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Communicating in the Workplace: 3 Ways to Think Like a Leader

[Originally published September, 2015]

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” It's good advice. And the same could also be said for the way we think. It can be easy to slip into a functional or transactional way of thinking, particularly if your current position is an entry or lower-level "minion" job.

Perspective shrinks if we don’t intentionally make it grow.

If you have ambitious goals but struggle to see how your present connects to the future you’ve envisioned, one way to move forward purposefully is to learn to think like a leader.

The Harvard Business Review recently published an article titled “To Become a Leader, Think Beyond Your Role.” The author pointed out that in our jobs, we may sometimes offer our opinions from our own limited perspective, without thought to the numerous other considerations our managers or CEO must consider in order to do their job effectively.

By taking on a leadership perspective, you not only grow as a person and a professional, you become a valued team member and develop leadership skills by demonstrating your competence.

1. Adopt the leadership mindset of pass the credit/take the blame

This may seem counterintuitive, and although there is nothing wrong with taking credit for a job well done, being a person who clearly wants to build others up and give plenty of credit where credit is due goes a long way to establishing your integrity in the workplace. Consequently, if something goes wrong and you were associated with the mistake or oversight, don’t pack pedal and try to find somewhere else to lay the blame; own it, fix it, and express your desire to learn from the mistake, even if you are not the only person at fault.

2. Diversify. Do things outside your job description

If there’s one thing that frustrates managers and others in leadership positions, it’s encountering the mindset of “that’s not my job.” Be the person who stands out because of your willingness to jump into a new project or help someone out even though it may not be your particular area of expertise, or part of your job description. You never know what opportunities you may encounter or what doors may be opened simply because you were able to think beyond narrow parameters.

3. Think differently: learn to see the big picture

CEOs have to see the big picture. So even if you occupy the lowest possible position on the totem pole, if you want to be a leader, learn to see as far as you possibly can. Learn about the market, the economy, and the various constituents and stakeholders your company’s leadership has to accommodate. Learn about budget and human resources and how international affairs affect your company. Learn about employee relations and the psychology of the workplace. Think about the direction of the company, the goals of the company, and what actions will need to be taken to reach those goals.

Before you can learn to become a leader in the professional world, you must learn how to become the leader of your own life. Determine your far-reaching goals, and then lay out and execute a strategic plan to reach them. Reject narrow-minded thinking, work hard and you will be well on your way to becoming a leader in your field.

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