Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader: How to Change the Course of Your Career

Jacob Morgan

Turning into a leader doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and strategy to develop leadership skills and put them into practice.

Want to be a leader? You'll have to walk the walk before you talk the talk.

That's the claim of Herminia Ibarra, a professor of leadership at the INSEAD School of Business. According to her, before you can change your career trajectory with a leadership role, you must start by acting like a leader before you think like one. It may sound backwards to some people, but Herminia's reasoning makes sense: It's impossible to think like a leader if you aren't one. Leaders categorize things and think differently, but you won't know how to deal with that until you've acted like a leader to see what the role entails.

Leaders are vital at all levels of an organization. While the CEO stands as the ultimate leader of the company, leaders at different levels help convey the company's grand vision and motivate teams or departments to meet their goals. If you want to become a leader, you must figure out what to change and why to change to make you successful in the future. According to Herminia, there are three main areas where employees who wish to be leaders need to change their thinking:

Turning into a leader doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and strategy to develop leadership skills and put them into practice. One of the best things a person can do to become a leader is to gain "outsight," or to push themselves into new situations with new people. Outsight leads to external perspective, or the ability to draw from new people and new situations. Try something new, expand the periphery of your job, or get involved in a new area of your organization. Small steps can lead to changing your mindset and can turn you into a leader. From there, you can follow Herminia's four steps to becoming a better leader:

Leadership skills can be brought by all kinds of people. You might not become the world's best leader overnight, but by taking small steps and acting like a leader, before long, you may find yourself thinking like a leader with a team to guide.