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    Are you a leader? Are you always a leader? Do you know the common qualities of great leaders? Can you be a good leader? These are some of the questions that pop up when we discuss the vast subject of leadership. This article builds on the ‘Practical Ways to Stand Out as a Leader’ webinar. We will demystify leadership, explore practical growth tactics, and uncover the benefits of stepping up as a leader.

    Demystifying Leadership

    Some of the common myths surrounding leadership discussions are as follows:

    • Leaders are born with innate qualities. Leadership skills cannot be developed. Leadership is also a skill. Like every other skill, this also can be developed. Anyone with the right mindset can get better at leadership with practice.

    • Someone is a leader only if people are reporting to that person. A leader need not necessarily have direct reports. Irrespective of the direct reports, a true leader will continue demonstrating leadership qualities.

    • Designation plays a key role in leadership. The designation helps to an extent in influencing folks. At the same time, it is more of a bonus than an actual need.

    • Leaders never make mistakes and they always know all the answers. A key quality of a good leader is that they don’t hesitate to try out new things and at the same time, they are the first ones to accept and learn from their mistakes.

    • Kind leaders are a misconception. If you have to get work done, you can’t be kind. And finally, one can be a kind leader. Kindness helps the leaders to bond well with everyone and makes working with such leaders both fun and easy.

    Some thoughts

    As we learn to stand out as a leader, we need to understand the foundational principles. To lead others, we need to first learn to lead ourselves. Leadership can be in many forms. Not all contexts demand the same leadership style. One doesn’t need a title to be a leader. At this very moment, one can decide to start their leadership journey.

    Top Ways to Stand Out as a Leader

    Practical Growth Tactics - Getting Started

    Focus on Self

    As an individual, to be good at leadership, get better at leading yourself. It can be as simple as being organized and having all the necessary information at your fingertips. Many to-be leaders lose their credibility as they are not able to get the right information when needed. The underlying reason is a lack of systems in place to be organized - be it data, documents, tasks, or open threads.

    Also, be fearless in being yourself. Remember that no one can be better at being you than you. Be authentic.

    Work well with people (teams)

    • Empathy - the secret weapon How much ever talented a person is, no one wants to work with someone who doesn’t demonstrate empathy. As we all know, a brilliant jerk is not tolerated for a long time.

    • Add value continuously To succeed as a leader, learn to add value to others continuously. The compound effect kicks in and soon you will find others helping you in return as well. Help others achieve their goals so that they will also help achieve your goals.

    • Benefit of doubt When one of your reports has made a mistake, give the benefit of the doubt to the person and approach the meeting with that mindset. There is a huge difference in how the meeting would turn out compared to the time when you have already made up your mind that your report has made a mistake.

    • Communicate well Get better at visual, verbal, and written communication. Learn to answer the next logical question. Take the next logical action. Most of the time, it is okay to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission. Understand the different personality types and communicate based on the stakeholders.

    • Gratitude Do not hesitate to send thank you emails, personalized and as soon as possible. It costs nothing and helps build a strong bond between team members.

    • Follow-up Never let anyone follow up on your promises. Be prepared and complete the tasks on time. It is also recommended to provide interim updates to keep everyone updated.

    • Close threads As you begin your week, note down the open threads. From the open threads, pick the ones for the specific day. Update them daily. As the day progresses, some of them might get closed and new ones might open. Keep everyone informed.

    Long Game

    Many play the small game - they look for immediate benefits and lose in the long term. It might feel like losing the current situation but the payback is high in the long term.

    • Experiment Experience helps a lot and to gain experience, experiments play an important role. Experiment to gain experience, to know your limits and to find new partners to collaborate.

    • Have a mentor Mentors help you to understand perspectives, broaden your understanding and to prevent traps. They also guide you better ways to showcase your work well.

    • Fulfilling life Focus on the long term gains. Are you losing the relationships while fighting to gain the short-term wins? Think about it. Having a balance is key. No one wants to burn out working hard. Think of growth beyond just money. Growth can be in terms of learning, opportunities, reputation, peace and relationships too.

    • Impact is visible As you collaborate more, more folks also want to work with you. They look up to you fearlessly and do not hesitate to share the news.

    Benefits

    The benefits of standing out as a leader are many. You get ample learning opportunities and recognition too.

    • People remember you They remember you for future opportunities, trust you to deliver and provide you with more money, promotions and high-value projects.

    • Job opportunities People move on but refer you. They love working with you and want to hire you, they recommend your work to others.

    • Learning One gets a lot of opportunities to learn, upskill and partner with others.

    • Recognitions There is more money, awards and greater responsibilities on offer for those who stand out

    So, go ahead and work towards becoming a better leader. Apply the tactics and enjoy the benefits of standing out as a leader.

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    About the writer
    Ajay Balamurugadas

    Ajay Balamurugadas

    Ajay Balamurugadas goes by the handle ‘ajay184f’ in the testing community and is continuously re-inventing his testing methodology. He co-founded Weekend Testing – a worldwide movement for skilled testing and authored multiple books available at bit.ly/booksaj and bit.ly/ajleanpub. His friends associate the terms – ‘Change Agent, Idea Man, Motivational’ with him. He tweets and loves to have long conversations on software testing and life in general. He is currently working at GSPANN Technologies, Inc. as Senior Director – QE. When not testing, he spends time with his wife and two children.

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