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How to prove you're ready to be boss

By Kaitlin Madden,
You have to prove you have leadership qualities before you can become a boss, experts say.
You have to prove you have leadership qualities before you can become a boss, experts say.
  • If you haven't been in a "leadership role" in a long time, you have to prove you're ready
  • Seek out -- and solve -- problems in your department or at your company
  • Observe current leaders and try to demonstrate their qualities
  • Next time a task force or project team is formed, volunteer to lead the group

( -- You've been in your industry for a while now. You've paid your dues. Now you're ready to be in charge.

The problem is you haven't held an official "leadership role" since your tenure as captain of your high school softball team.

So how do you prove that you're prepared to take the reins if you don't have managerial experience?

Whether you're looking to move into a management position at your current company, or you want to start from scratch as a leader at a new company, here are the best ways to prove it's your turn to be the boss:

Be a problem solver

Great leaders are innovative and proactive and lead by example. A good way to demonstrate that you possess all of these qualities is by seeking out -- and solving -- problems in your department or at your company.

"If there's a problem that can be fixed, bring your solution to the table at the same time you highlight the problem," says Renessa Boley, a leadership coach in Washington, D.C., and founder of The Big Life Network, a career and personal coaching firm in Rockville, Maryland.

"If there's a way to do your job more efficiently, do it first, then bring that solution to your manager. That's a sure-fire way of stepping into a leadership role without the promotion. Leaders lead; others wait to be told what to do."

Similarly, if you're looking for a leadership role a new company, highlight your problem-solving ability on your résumé. "The best way to do that is to highlight results," Boley says. Emphasize how you've increased productivity, saved the company time or money, or improved morale, she says.

Observe current company leaders

When vying for a leadership role, do some research. Observe current leaders in the company and see what qualities they possess. Then look at the functions and responsibilities of your own job and see where you can demonstrate those same qualities.

If you are applying to a new company, research the company mission statement and values on its website. Emphasize corresponding skills on your résumé.

For example, Chuck Martin, author of "Work Your Strengths," says, "If a company values long-term strategy and big-goal orientation, you should highlight long-term projects you successfully completed or how you easily stay focused on long-term objectives. If a company is more short-term driven for, say, making quarterly numbers, you should highlight how you deal with day-to-day and week-to-week activities, and highlight how you tend to start projects as soon as they are assigned," Martin says.

Be a leader now

Ensure that you're next in line for a promotion by taking on leadership roles in your current position.

"Most organizations today have committees, task forces, study groups and project teams for people who are nonsupervisors, "says Dennis Kravetz, author of "Measuring Human Capital." "All of these groups require a leader."

So the next time a task force or project team is formed, volunteer to lead the group. "In this capacity, the person can demonstrate leadership competencies and build leadership skills," Kravetz says.

John Baldoni, an internationally recognized leadership coach and author of "Lead your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up," says, "Those who aspire to leadership should make it known they are ready for more responsibility by asking for it and following through on the asking. Prove yourself as a person who can get things done."

Then, add these leadership or project management roles to your résumé, making sure to highlight examples of how you helped the team achieve, Baldoni says.

Cover for the boss

Offer to cover for your boss while he or she is traveling or on vacation.

"While it might mean more work, it is an excellent way to demonstrate leadership and have it be visible to others," Kravetz says. "Some supervisors might not want a nonsupervisory to cover for them and instead would ask another peer to take over. However, many are open to the idea, particularly with less sensitive tasks," he says.

Bottom line

The best way to demonstrate that you're ready for a leadership role is to show your manager and company higher-ups that you are more interested in the role than the title. "Managers want to see that you possess the intangible qualities of a leader -- like initiative, problem solving, vision and follow-through -- without the title," Boley says.

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