Are You Ready To Lead?

Angel Martinez

Angel Martinez, CEO of Deckers Outdoor Corporation

Posters in Mihaylo Hall talk about how our students are “Ready to work. Ready to lead.” We all know that it takes a strong work ethic to graduate from this program. So let’s talk about leadership. What does it mean to be a leader?

Leadership is primarily about influence. Being a leader simply means being able to influence others to see your point of view or to pursue a course of action that you prefer.

So how do you get to be someone who is able to influence someone else? Here are some things you need to do to improve your ability to influence others:

Know your stuff

In order to influence, you must been seen as being competent. Learn enough about the topic so you can talk about it like an expert. Read extensively on a topic. Talk to others who are knowledgeable about the topic. Be sure to also seek a diverse range of perspectives so as to understand how different types of people view the topic.

Speak up

Knowing the material is a good start. The next step is to let others know that you are competent by being able to present your knowledge with confidence. A great place to do this is in meetings because you can convey your competence to a large number of people at once. As Indira Nooyi, the CEO of Pepsi, says, “A lot of people are brilliant, but if you don’t have the courage to speak up, it doesn’t matter.”

Be genuine

To influence others, they must respect and trust you. A great way to build trust is by being yourself. Don’t try to do anything outside your normal interpersonal style and stay true to your values. It is vital that others see that your motives are pure. Rather than seeking personal gain, you are seeking to pursue a course of action that will truly benefit the organization.

Look for opportunities to make a change

Leaders steer clear of the status-quo. The worst thing to a leader is to hear someone say “but we always do it that way.” If someone justifies a certain course of action with the status-quo, it should be seen an opportunity to lead. It is likely that the current solution is inefficient and remains in place simply because nobody has the desire to change it. If you have a solution that you think is more effective than the status-quo, a great way to demonstrate your leadership potential is to try to influence others to  adopt it.

Practice in low-risk settings

Like everyone else, to get good at something you must practice. And college is a perfect place to practice. Get involved with the numerous clubs and organizations present on campus and, if possible, become an officer. Or you can become the leader for a classroom team project. This will put you in a position to have encounters that will give you a sense of how well you can influence others. As a result, you will have a better understanding of your strengths as a leader as well as areas in which you can improve.

These strategies are by no means intended to be exhaustive. Based on your own experience, what else can you do to more effectively assert your leadership abilities in the workplace?

Guest blogger Atul Teckchandani, assistant professor of management at Mihaylo, teaches courses in entrepreneurship, provides student advising and is involved with the Center for Entrepreneurship. His research examines how different types of organizations in a community collectively affect economic outcomes and entrepreneurial activity. You can follow him on Twitter @atulteck.

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11 Responses to Are You Ready To Lead?

  1. Jerry Conrey says:

    The writer has clearly conveyed how a student can step up and be prepared to be noticed . One technique that I suggest is to convey your position in the form of a question – leaders do not have to have all the right answers, they need to ask the right questions. By putting it in the form of a question, you help shape the thinking of those you are posing the question to and you are looked upon as wiser and more profound. Try the technique, I promise successful results if the question is framed in a way that makes the answer obvious.

  2. Samuel says:

    In addition to the points listed above, I believe it is also imperative for aspiring leaders to:

    Seeing is believing and observation of the right kind of leadership helps to set a precedent of appropriate and inappropriate leadership tactics without the need to practice the tactic yourself. Practice is still very important but much time can be saved by keeping a watchful eye on the most productive efficient/effective leaders. This includes know the difference between managers and leaders. (Ex. Mangers give order to complicated tasks. Leaders effectively deal with changes to those set plans.) In addition, a Chinese proverb once wrote, “You become the 5 people closest to you.” With that perspective aspiring leaders should cultivate a network of leaders to maintain and cultivate the best leadership qualities for today’s dynamic work force.

  3. Aurélia Z says:

    If you don’t get the opportunity to become a leader of your team project or officer of your club during your college time, don’t worry, you can still practice your leadership. You can try to figure out what you should have done if you were at their place and how you will have proceeded. You can speak in class when you can and try to persuade your assemble. You can also organize your own event and being the leader of it. You must being creative because this is also one skills that a leader should have.

  4. Jenna Protenic says:

    I really enjoyed reading this blog post. The author hits all the key points and qualities a leader needs to be successful. Leaders need credibility, which comes from their knowledge and experience, be able to genuinely express themselves, not follow “the crowd” and not be afraid of failure. I am involved in leadership programs within my church and am always looking for ways to improve and help others around me improve. I struggle with speaking up the most. I may come up with a good idea, but second guess myself and then someone else speaks up and had the same idea I had. Leaders need courage to go out of their comfort zone and invite others to follow. They need to always lead with a positive attitude because no one will respect someone who is negative. The most important thing I think a leader does is lead by example, they need to be able to do what they are telling others to do (or practice what they preach).

  5. David Chamberlain says:

    It’s interesting to consider ‘being genuine’ when playing the role as a leader. I have witnessed many attempting to be leaders in various situations and one of the most noticeable dificientcies was a genuine interest in what they were doing. I found it easy to spot the people who lacked a pure drive for what they were attempting to reach. On the other hand, the leaders that have a genuine interest in what they’re doing are the leaders that I often recall as those that I aspire to be when in leadership roles.

  6. Alexandra Trzoska says:

    I agree at this point where the article mentions that it is important to speak up your knowledge and share your experience. There are many leaders out there, but not a lot of them are noticible. On the other hand those leaders who are not the obvious ones can also inspire me. I have met one of them and he will probably always be an inspiring leader and mentor to me. That’s because he doesn’t seek the attention, but is still given the attention because of his knowledge and way to communicate with the people that are interested in his ideas.

    Although I fully agree to the first part of this article that is about “knowing your topic”. Knowledge is always highly valuable and a winning concept. But it is also easier to know something very well if you are passionate about it, which means that these two things go hand in hand.

  7. Jonathan Ko says:

    In addition to the above, to be an effective leader, I think one big advantage to have would be if one started from the bottom and worked their way up. It’s not absolutely necessary per se, but would make one much more effective than just exhibiting the attributes above. In any setting, not just in the workplace, there is much respect for individuals who have experienced what their subordinates (for lack of a better word) have gone through.

    For example, a friend who is in the Army once told me that there is little respect for ROTC officers until they prove themselves. The ones who enlisted started from scratch and some of them may be well in their 20s and 30s having fought in battles, and they are subject to the command of ROTC officers who may be much younger than them, but have 0 experience. They may exhibit all of the five attributes above, but they are not ready to lead in the eyes of their peers because they assume that they joined ROTC for the money to pay for college, etc.

    I have heard countless friends, family, and strangers gripe about their managers in the workplace. I myself questioned my own managers’ backgrounds and came to realize that literally everybody respects them because they were once like us – expendable employees who had no authority. But because they did an outstanding job and stayed with the company for x years, they worked their way up and now, not only do they lead with complete confidence, but they truly understand what we have to put up with sometimes, because they have been there themselves. This element/level of understanding and trust is something that not enough managers have today, because most have learned about the theories, procedures, and guides to directing people but not the experience to back it up.

  8. Alex Calish says:

    In the day to day life of a student at CSUF, I see very few students who take the initiative to become a leader in their classes. Whether it involves raising their hands to answer questions and participate, or putting away their cellphones for 1 hour, the status quo at CSUF is to show up to class 90% of the time and go through the motions. Students are far too comfortable with sitting back and not taking charge of their academic career. I will not say that I am the hardest worker by any means. I would have a 4.0 if I was. But I make a conscious effort to be a part of class discussions and to take charge in team projects by delegating responsibilities between the team members. If the Mihaylo motto will be “Ready to work. Ready to lead” I believe the students should be held to a higher standard.

  9. Lourdes Bray says:

    First off, for many years, society has made leadership to be something attainable by a small population. This idea is antiquated and now leadership is slowly changing. A lot of it requires self-reflection and assessing the areas where we are strong and where we may fall short. This provides grounding and opens the door to identifying what areas require development because leadership is focused process that requires a set of skills and competencies that the article mentioned. I have found that effective leaders need to be skillful. Leaders need to learn about the people they are leading and trying to influence in order to come from a place of knowledge and leaders need to demonstrate a genuine desire to make changes that are in the best interest of the people and organization they are serving. Skillfulness is about being an expert in your field, knowledgeable about the other business units you interact with and it’s also about interpersonal skills (this is huge – you can do this by networking with others outside your area of expertise-learn about and from others). Skillful leaders know when to leverage their expertise, and when to leverage their people skills to get the desired results their looking for – they must also know where they are headed. That leads me to my last point – leaders are also visionaries, which the article briefly touches. It’s looking at what is real now, but also strategizing approaches for the future – but always focused on what’s realistic for the business and keeping the current and desired culture change in mind.

  10. Chris O says:

    It’s critical not to forget the element of hard work. It is not that leadership is unattainable by the majority of the population, it’s that the majority of the population are unwilling to put in the time and effort to be a good leader. The last point is excellent; a key quality of a good leader is the having the ability (practice) to present the vision (speaking up) in such a way that others completely buy into it (genuine) and are willing to go beyond an 8 hour day to achieve it.

  11. zhichong chen says:

    Most student knowing that getting leadership experiences is important, but only few of them willing to make initiative move. I agree that leader must be knowledgeable, willingness to speak up, and experienced. However, in college, I think the most important reason people unwilling to be a team leader is responsibility. No one wants to lose a friend just because he or she being too bossy. When a team project or group project is assigned, people wouldn’t even take a quick look until the one week before due date or one day before due date. As a leader, you have responsibility to encourage your teammates to get their jobs done. This sounds easy but, in fact, it is not, because nobody would think the project is important to finish one or two weeks before due date.

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