How confident are you to show leadership? If Jack Welch or Martin Luther King is your image of an effective leader, that’s a pretty hard act to follow.

On the other hand, if you see leadership as simply showing others a better way, you have a much simpler proposition on your hands. Think of any time you have set an example for others by working harder or simply keeping going when things got tough at work. No doubt there have been at least a few times when you have convinced some of your colleagues to try doing something a bit differently. This is leadership.

But maybe you would like to show leadership on a larger scale. To do so doesn’t mean getting promoted to a formal leadership position if you are not already in one. Maybe you want to make your mark, to show what you can do, to prove that you have an important contribution to make. This is a very valuable attitude and one that will get you recognized as a leader. The key is confidence. How can you build your confidence to really challenge the status quo, to move a group of people in a different direction?

In order to bolster your confidence, try starting small. You can do this in either of two ways or both. First, think of a change you can propose that is not likely to be highly controversial, costly or risky to try. Second, identify target people who seem generally receptive to your suggestions already. You might even pick them off one at a time rather than taking on the much bigger challenge of trying to convert everyone in a meeting at the same time.

Another way to make showing leadership easier is to use an influencing style that is most likely to be received positively. The central idea is to avoid making people feel stupid. You can achieve this by using questions to draw your idea out of them, almost as if you were asking for their advice. If you do this well, you might even succeed in making them think it was your idea. A second tactic is to present your idea but get your target audience to state what they see as the benefits of your suggestion. People find it easier to buy an idea if they have stated the benefits for themselves in their own words than if someone else tells them what they should think.

Advertisement

When you are ready to try selling a more controversial idea, test it out on people you think might be most receptive. Enlist their help by asking them how they can help to spread the word and what they think might work to influence others. If confidence is an issue for you, simply start small and move up the scale of difficulty at your own pace.