How to Build Leadership Skills When You’re Not A Leader

Proactive. Innovative. Ambitious. Assertive. Whether you’re CEO of a company, a team manager or a hard-working employee, adopting and possessing leadership qualities can enhance your professional trajectory and even personal life. Labeling yourself as a leader and possessing leadership qualities personally executed can be seen as different entities. Traditionally, perhaps even misleadingly, people who manage others in a professional environment are labeled as leaders. In a small business setting for example, the owner or entrepreneur most likely serves as the leader. He or she oversees operations and makes decisions for the organization. Does the business need international address verification software to enhance marketing strategies? How will the products and services continue to exceed expectations? In what ways can employees keep their level of motivation high? Because you’re in a supervising position, you’re not always a leader.

True Characteristics

To be a leader you must have leadership qualities, but by exhibiting superior leadership qualities, you don’t have to necessarily be in a leadership role. Typical leadership characteristics include the following:

  • Dedication to honor, principles and moral obligations that you strongly stand for
  • Ability to inspire and influence
  • Curiosity to learn and acquire more knowledge
  • Courage to think differently and imagine the impossible
  • Drive for seeking what looms on the horizon
  • Ambition and the desire to take initiative
  • Creativity for thinking outside the box

Adopting and exhibiting leadership qualities, even if you’re not identified as a leader in a professional sense, will help you excel as an employee, professional and individual. By striving to practice leadership qualities, you’ll naturally become a leader who is, if not directly inspiring and supervising others, inspiring and supervising yourself to reach your highest potential. Don’t discount the fact that as an indirect result of possessing exemplary characteristics, you will inspire and influence others as well as change the perceptions others’ have of you.

Act Like a Leader

According to, CEO of Booher Consultants, Dianna Booher puts it bluntly: To reach that “next level of success” act like a leader. With small baby steps, you can develop, modify or grow your “habits, attitudes, skills, and characteristics” that may limit you.

To professionally benefit and garner the respect proven leaders receive, Booher recommends you make the decision to:

  • Live With Integrity: Actions and decisions based on honesty and sincerity creates trust and credibility. People who are trusted and credible are given opportunities.
  • Listen Be Observant: In silence you can learn a lot; whether you’re silent and carefully listening to someone else speak or you’re literally in silence and listening to your own thoughts. If you received nothing beneficial from listening to another person, you’ll still be perceived as likeable and reliable.
  • Commitment Consistency: Say what you mean and do what you mean to. Saying something you think people want to hear, to make people feel happy or to falsely shed yourself in good light has zero positive consequences. Deliver what you promise. Hold yourself accountable. Be consistent.
  • Form Relationships Connections: As you meet people, you’re increasing your network, and there’s always the likelihood that you can help someone or vice versa. Plus, meeting new people provides you with different perspectives, experience and stories that can help you grow. Be someone who’s confident and whom you’d like to be around.

Want to Lead Smarter? Check out the eBook The Portable Guide to Leading Organizations, which you can download absolutely FREE.



  1. jay says

    I thought this was an excellent article on how leaders should be. Unfortunately, true leadership also requires risk taking and courage. Change is always met by resistance.

    John Jay


  2. Ron Radetich says

    Great article. To stay ahead of the curve the strong and successful lead from the front by example.

  3. ram sunder singh says

    Great article. I have had been a vigilant pedestrian at all front during the span of my life and tried to enrich my knowledge and even to change crystallized perception which either guided me on the wrong or right path. I do find covering all the attributes for being a leader which when practiced make the difference but the sacrosanct characters are also defined by the situational factors prevailing in the surrounding and define an employee as a leader. Every person is gifted by different traits which demand for harnessing and channelizing in proper direction by developing the strength and converting the weakness into strength. All the prescribed points are what the Almighty made him to live with peace and harmony and enlighten the world with our knowledge but in real world, we find the distortion of the above attributes.

  4. PremKumar says

    All the skills that one is practicing is from the example of others. You can do things differently until you see things differently. Grab the opportunity on your way.
    To develop the Leadership skills, The first and foremost thing to do is to give up shyness. Exercise your roles and responsiblites effectively. Communicate with people and you will learn more. You must show the difference in your work and make people to accept you by your knowledge, talents, skills and attitude. You will prove to become a leader soon. Do not pretend by try to be realistic and show results. The thumb rule is opportunity is given to people who is committed, productive, professiona & result oriented. If you miss the bus you have to wait too long for your turn. Until You jump into the water you will never learn how to swim. Be bold, confidant and refrain from criticism and you will see the difference leading your way to become a Leader.

  5. Nancy says

    Interesting article. But some companies don’t want the devils advocate in bringing issues to the forefront. It’s all in the title in which you hold at a company and the true ability of speaking up and accepting leadership by all, is without a doubt, unwanted…without repercussion from a company.

    • says

      Nancy, great point. The balance between speaking up and staying safe is a line all leaders will walk, even in organizations that seem accepting of new idea. Thanks for the comment.