How to Be a Leader Before You’re A Leader

If you desire to enter into a leadership role and are looking for ways to gain experience, there are many informal ways to stretch your leadership muscles. Even without a formal title, you can be a leader in your workplace and stand out among the pack. Here are four ways to be a leader at work before you have a title identifying you as a leader.


Whether it’s grunt work or a high-visibility project, throwing your hat in the ring for an opportunity to lead is a great way to get noticed. If you take on a project that no one else wants to do (e.g., organizing the office filing system) you’ll demonstrate that you’re a team player and will likely not have much competition for being assigned the task. If it’s a high-visibility assignment, delivering on your commitments can get you noticed and lead to other leadership opportunities. With high-visibility assignments, however, you’ll likely be competing with other people in the office for a chance to shine. 

Speak Up/Share Ideas

No one’s perfect. No matter how good someone is at their job, they’re bound to make mistakes occasionally. When this happens to a colleague or supervisor, don’t be afraid to speak up in a respectful and helpful way. They will likely be grateful for you saving them from a public blunder. It can be tempting to be a wallflower and not offer your opinion, but going this route won’t give your colleagues and superiors a chance to see you as a leader. 

It’s important to also speak up when you have ideas. While every idea you offer might not be accepted, regularly contributing will show people what you’re capable of. If your idea is well-received, you can pitch yourself to be the one to bring it to fruition. It is great to be known as an employee with innovative ideas. When your employer is considering someone to take on a future, more formal leadership role, having a record of offering good ideas will work in your favor. 

Be Useful

Another way to exhibit leadership skills is to be a colleague that people can come to for help. Whether they’re struggling with a technical issue or they’re completely overwhelmed, having a reputation as a team player is a great way to gain visibility. Consider posting relevant articles on the team Slack channel or organizing the office walking challenge. Providing resources and being helpful to teammates is a great way to gain leadership experience. 

Find Opportunities Outside of Work

In some work environments, it may not be possible to implement the above suggestions. Some roles come with strictly defined duties and performing work in addition to those duties may not be possible. In this case, volunteer work, professional organizations, and side hustles are all great for gaining valuable leadership experience. By volunteering, not only are you getting valuable experience for your resume, but you are supporting causes that are important to you. 

If your goal is to grow in your career, then taking advantage of leadership opportunities, whether formal or informal, should be a part of your career development plan. While leadership opportunities may not always be readily available, creating them is surely possible, even in a competitive working environment. Developing yourself into a leader is a sure way to elevate your career and achieve your goals.

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