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How Admins Can Develop Leadership Skills

In today’s workplace, anyone in an administrative job is expected to possess many skills that extend beyond computer know-how and teamwork. Among them are strong leadership abilities, which are now more important than ever.

So how do you develop your inner leader? By embracing a handful of behaviors and attitudes proven leaders possess. Here’s how.

Leaders Show Initiative

The first step is being proactive, according to Dawna Stone, coauthor of Winning Nice: How to Succeed in Business and Life Without Waging War. “Even if you aren’t in a position to actually lead others, you can still conduct yourself like a leader,” she says. “When situations arise that call for your leadership, you’ll be able to rise to the occasion.”

Instead of simply noting a problem or complaining about it, leaders solve it. For example, when Jaclyn Lamfers, a financial services assistant for American State Bank Investment Management & Trust, discovered the industry-standard software her company used wasn’t meeting customers’ reporting needs, she took action.

“I took a simple Microsoft Office course, and I learned ways to make our industry software perform in ways it hadn’t before,” Lamfers says. “Now I have an expertise that helps our company and helps our customers.”

That kind of leadership contributes to the company’s bottom line — and to your own performance review.

Leaders Take Ownership

Taking ownership of your work and staying on top of changing needs gives your boss comfort that you’re in control of the situation. “When you demonstrate ownership, you demonstrate leadership,” says Leonard Homer, president of admin service provider Essential Business Solutions. “Don’t look at an assignment as ‘something I was handed.’ Rather, look at it as, ‘this is my task, for my company, and I need to get it done.'”

And when tasks pile up on your desk, you can show leadership ability by adjusting priorities so you can continue to meet the needs of both your boss and the business.

“The road twists and turns in every organization and for every admin,” Homer says. “You often take direction from multiple people within the organization, and often all at the same time. You’ve got to prioritize and reprioritize your work — day by day, hour by hour.”

Leaders Get People to Follow

Effective leaders persuade others to follow them in pursuit of a goal. That requires assertiveness and communication skills.

“Assertiveness shows that you are a leader, that you own the project,” explains Herb Greenberg, president and CEO of HR consulting firm Caliper.

But being assertive and communicative with those around you doesn’t mean constantly reminding people you’re in charge or bossing them around. “Being persuasive is a more effective trait in leadership,” Greenberg says. Instead of browbeating colleagues into participating in a project, for instance, ask about their needs and motivations — and play to them.

“Remember that communication is a two-way street,” Greenberg advises. “You have to communicate your ideas and listen to what the other guy has to say.”

This technique allows others to feel they’re meeting their own needs — even though they’re also helping you meet yours. It also shows higher-ups you can get others’ support in supporting company operations.

Leaders Combine Varied Skills

In the end, a true leader mixes all these skills to create success for themselves and others.

“A leader possesses the ability to motivate others, make independent decisions and take calculated risks,” says Diane Gottsman, director of the Protocol School of Texas, which specializes in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals. “A good administrative assistant does this on a daily basis.”

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