Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Think about a past or present leader who is dominating the industry you’re in. If you didn’t think about yourself, you have some work to do. The great news is that you don’t have to be an extrovert to lead from the front. In fact, many of the most successful and influential leaders are introverts at heart. But does that stop them from making moves and making money? Absolutely not.
Leading from the front is about so much more than being the loudest person in the room. It’s about having the courage to stand up for what you believe in, even when it’s unpopular. It’s about inspiring others to be their best selves. And it’s about making a positive impact on the world around you. Start by thinking like this:
What do you have to offer?
Of course, you have 10 to 20 years of hard-earned experience and a higher-level education that could impress anyone. You have a successful career, a robust network and a long list of accomplishments. But what else do you have to offer?
You have the power to change people’s lives for the better. You can make an impact on your community, your company and your industry. You have a voice that needs to be heard. Don’t underestimate yourself or the difference you can make in the world. You have more to offer than you realize. So, what now?
Start with self-reflection
You have to be open to intense self-reflection. The definition of self-reflection is “meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions and motives.” This isn’t the same as beating yourself up for your past mistakes or rehashing old arguments. It’s about taking an honest look at who you are and what you want to achieve. To do this, ask yourself some tough questions:
What motivates me?
Why do I want to be a leader?
What am I passionate about?
What difference do I want to make?
What do I stand for?
Be prepared to sit with these questions for a while. It’s not easy to dig deep and find the answers, but it’s worth it. This is key to understanding your growth areas, triggers and the things that make you feel uncomfortable. The more you know about yourself, the easier it will be to lead from the front.
Only when you know yourself can you begin to grow and change. If you’re not willing to do the hard work of self-reflection, you’ll never be able to lead from the front. The accomplishments, accolades and plain ‘ole life experiences you’ve been through up to this point all add to your personal story. Every piece of knowledge and expertise you carry is going to set someone else free.
You also have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. As an introvert, you’re probably used to flying under the radar. You like your peace and quiet, and you’re happy to stay in the background while still getting the job done. That’s why you’ve been able to move up the corporate ladder — by putting in hard work and keeping your head down.
Your days of working from the shadows are over. Leading from the front means stepping out of your comfort zone regularly. It means putting yourself and your ideas out there.
How to break out of your shell and step into your purpose
If you’re ready to step up and become the leader you were meant to be, here are nine ways to get started:
Be authentic: The first step to becoming a leader is being authentic. People are attracted to leaders who are genuine and authentic. They want to follow someone real and down-to-earth, not someone who is trying to put on a show. You’re safe within your own story.
Let your vulnerability show: Great leaders aren’t afraid to show their vulnerability. They use it to their advantage. Being vulnerable allows you to connect with others on a deeper level and build trust. When people feel like they can trust you, they’re more likely to follow you.
Be confident: Confidence is key when it comes to being a leader. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect others to follow you? Believe in your vision, and be confident in your ability to make it happen.
Be decisive: The decision-maker holds the power. Leaders are decisive — they know what they want, and they go after it. They’re not afraid to make tough decisions, and they don’t second-guess themselves.
Be passionate: Within your passion lies your purpose. Passion is contagious. When you’re passionate about something, others will be drawn to you. Passionate leaders are also typically more successful because they’re so driven to achieve their goals.
Practice humility, and build community: Despite all of their accomplishments, successful leaders remain humble. They know that they didn’t get where they are on their own, and they’re always willing to give credit where it’s due. Humble leaders are also more approachable and easier to relate to.
Show people you genuinely care: Compassion is an important quality for any leader. People want to follow someone who cares about them and their well-being. When you’re compassionate, people will trust you and feel comfortable confiding in you.
Be coachable, not cocky: No one knows everything, and even the best leaders need help from time to time. The most successful leaders are coachable. They’re always open to new ideas and willing to learn from their mistakes.
Be persistent: Last but not least, leaders are persistent. They don’t give up easily, and they never give up on their dreams. If you want to be a successful leader, you need to be prepared to put in the hard work and never give up on your vision. Consistency and persistency win every time.
The race isn’t always given to the swift
Becoming a leader takes time and effort, but it’s so worth it. When you step up and lead from the front, everyone following you will be able to ride your coattails to success. That’s where the real magic is.
Great leaders aren’t only in the business of creating success for themselves, they strive to inspire other leaders to do the same. When you lead from the front, you can change lives and make a lasting impact on the world. This is it. It’s time to step up and show the world what a true leader in your field of expertise looks like. No one can do it quite like you.