Every single person is a leader in some capacity. Not everyone views themselves as such, but it remains true. When I left the workforce to stay home with my children, I did not view myself as a leader. However, I led my children. I led a mom’s group. I initiated friendships. No one gave me the title of CEO, but I ran my home (I still do!). In turn, my oldest son led his younger siblings and showed leadership skills in sports at a young age. Everyone is a leader.
Becoming an experienced leader is a different story. As a young mom leading a group, I made more mistakes than I can recount. I loved serving, but I did not love how often I messed up. I would be embarrassed at planning meetings when I forgot to discuss an important topic. I mishandled relationships with difficult people. There were a lot of lessons learned the hard way.
But that leadership experience allowed me to grow and develop into who I am today. I still make mistakes, though hopefully far less. I still mishandle relationships, though I think with more understanding. I have not arrived, yet early experience and lots of mistakes allowed me to become a stronger leader.
The best way to gain leadership experience is to lead. Lead in small ways. For me, that has been wrangling five children and teaching them how to grow into healthy adults. It has also meant volunteering in many different capacities. Sometimes it’s an area I am naturally good at. Other times, I fill a need because no one else will. You can also lead in big ways. I re-entered the workforce and now work for PeopleTek. I am proud of the work we do to develop leaders around the world.
It’s been said that if you’re faithful in small things, you’ll be faithful in big things. Growing as a leader when it wasn’t my strength and did not even feel like I was even leading anyone has allowed me to become a leader who is confident and gracious towards others in their journey.
The same will be said of you. You might be the CEO of a major corporation, or you might just be starting your career. You are still a leader. There is no telling where you will go and what you will become. Invest in your growth now, so that when that promotion comes or that opportunity is too good to pass up, you will be ready. Gain leadership experience today, whether you’re leading thousands or one.
There is a proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is today.” Don’t wait until you have the title of a leader. You are already a leader.
Here are 5 tips to getting leadership experience:
- Follow smart leaders on social media. Utilize your scroll time well by engaging with leaders worth following. Their wisdom and experience can offer you a lot of valuable insight into leadership.
- Watch TED talks, read great books, listen to podcasts, etc. of leaders you want to emulate. There are a lot of terrible leaders out there that you would not want their advice, but there are many successful leaders who freely offer ways to grow as a leader.
- Spend time with others focused on leadership growth. Join a mastermind group. Search LinkedIn for leaders in your similar field. Reach out to people in your sphere of influence who are doing things well. Invest your time with other people who are heading in a similar direction. It will be time well spent.
- Celebrate little successes. When you handle a situation better today than you did a year ago, take time to honor that accomplishment. When you engage in a healthy conflict that gets resolved, give yourself credit for doing the hard work.
- Remember you’re on your own unique path. You will gain leadership experience in unique ways. You will grow and change at your own pace. Your story is not like anyone else’s, so don’t compare yourself to other people. Be yourself and become the person you’re meant to be!
The only way to get leadership experience is through practice. The more you lead, the better you lead. Every leader starts at the beginning. No one is born knowing all there is to know about human interactions and leadership growth.
You have what it takes to be a quality leader. You have the skills and abilities to lead well. No matter how small or how large your impact is, you are a leader. Owning that and taking it seriously leads to a lifetime of development. The more you invest, the better you will be. Start today in one small way toward getting leadership experience. Every investment you make in your future will be worth it!