How to Lead From Exactly Where You Are

How to Lead From Exactly Where You Are

By Lindsay Andrews


Bookshelves and blogs are filled with advice from CEOs who have reached the pinnacle of traditional career success. But there are far more of us who are somewhere in the middle, and I’m here to make the case – we’re already leaders. Why? Because we’re achieving so much every day in fulfilling our tasks, setting and meeting goals, brainstorming with and mentoring colleagues and seeing our original ideas come to fruition.

For those who continue to strive toward whatever your ultimate career goal might be (even if you’re still identifying it), let me give you a piece of advice you can take to the bank – there’s plenty we can learn from each other from where we sit in the here and now.

As a communications professional with nearly two decades of experience, I know a few things about leadership. My colleagues over the years have trusted and enjoyed working with me, my work speaks for itself, and I’m a boss in my own right (and at home to my two little girls).

Here are 10 tips for being a leader – no matter where you’re at in your career journey.


  1. Listen


This is the cardinal rule. Whether it’s day 1 on the job or day 1,000 – you need to listen to the people working with you and/or for you. People entering a workplace with no interest in listening won’t last long, either due to discord among colleagues or personal dissatisfaction on the job. I’ve been around long enough to know how to respect both the knowledge and wisdom imparted by those with years in the field and those who are newer to the workplace and have exciting, new skill sets to share.

Listening also applies to the workplace friendships you’ll make. I’ve had the good fortune of many colleagues who are also friends, and they’re a great foundation for job satisfaction. Head to lunch with a colleague, become a mentor to someone new on the job, have a conversation that’s more about family and your weekends than about a project, and learn through listening. But, conversations are a two-way street; and always know your audience! If you wouldn’t say it out loud, then don’t even dream of putting it in an email or – gasp! – over social media.


  1. Don’t Fear “I Don’t Know”


Listening segues nicely into my next point – admitting what we don’t yet know. It’s OK to admit that for two reasons – first, no one knows everything, so it would come as no surprise to admit that you need to take a step back and learn before you leap; and second, you don’t want to oversell your skills only to come up short of expectations. Rather, show confidence in where your talents lie, but express no doubts when you believe that you can learn the task at hand if given the tools. And then, grow from there.


  1. Always Be Learning


Professional development should always be a goal you aspire toward. The best leaders I’ve ever worked for encouraged me to invest in myself – whether through continuing education, or encouraging me to pursue what sparks my interest. In one case, it was acquiring an online certificate in marketing writing, as I wasn’t then familiar with the shorter, punchier style. To my delight, I loved it! You’re never too far along in your career to unlock a new talent or even to chase an educational degree. Bottom line, if you or your employer is able to help you find a pathway to your dream – and learning a new task, gaining a certificate, or obtaining a new degree helps you get there, then full steam ahead! Feeling like the most fulfilled version of yourself will inspire the most focused version of you in the workplace, and that’s a win-win for you and your employer.


  1. Set Achievable – Yet Meaningful – Goals


There’s a keyword come performance review time – and that’s progress. Not only will your supervisor be impressed with your progress if you’ve been completing your assignments, but they’ll also love seeing you come to them with fresh insights on how to streamline your work, or if you introduce a new and exciting concept. Bringing ideas to the forefront and owning those projects is a signature leadership move, and when they’re your ideas, you’ll find that you want to see those projects carried out seamlessly. The caveat is that everyone has time constraints. Make sure that the new ideas you introduce are within the confines of your schedule, apply to your role and organization’s mission, and don’t place undue work burdens on you or your colleagues.


  1. Roll Up Your Sleeves


In work, as in life, community is key.  One of the greatest tenets of leadership is caring about the people in the neighborhoods where you live and work. The PA Chamber has ample opportunities to do this through our engagement – one of which is through the United Way of the Capital Region, and I’m proud to be a member of the UW’s Women’s Leadership Network. I have colleagues who “Live United” very well. Admittedly, volunteerism is an area I used to excel a bit more in – but with the business of children and life, I’ve gotten away from it over the years. Life has ebbs and flows, and as I’m writing this blog post, it’s reminding me of where I need to refocus my attention.


  1. Try, Try Try


Getting outside of our comfort zones can be one of the hardest – yet most recognizable – displays of leadership.  But sometimes, on the path to success, we’re asked to do something we’re unfamiliar with, and we make the choice to meet the moment. In my case, that can be tied to filming interviews for our organization to put on our blog and social media – as I’m not entirely comfortable being filmed, even if it’s on an iPhone!

The first video I filmed felt like a hot mess – and so did the tenth! But the good thing about those videos is that they can be, and were, edited. With anything new… try it out, and if it doesn’t work, say, “Cut!” And then try again. In trying new things, sometimes making mistakes leads to learning lessons. Not to mention, taking ourselves too seriously and not embracing mistakes might mean missing out on the fun we could have in our careers. So, what would you like to try?


  1. Know Your Worth


Knowing your worth – both in having the self-esteem to excel in your job and to push confidently for that promotion – might sound like a natural and easy thing. Well, easier said than done. It can feel incredibly daunting to ask for these things (for women especially), but women are moving forward by leaps and bounds in this category. Focusing on your strengths and viewing situations as learning opportunities instead of strictly a performance evaluation is a way to overcome self-doubt and harness your leadership qualities. Also, find yourself a circle of champions who appreciate your talents, celebrate your capabilities, and reward them accordingly. It’s amazing what continuous support and encouragement can do for your psyche.


  1. Your Calendar, Your Friend


It seems that no matter your field, everyone is doing more than they used to – but our days haven’t gotten any longer! So, how do you maximize that ever-growing to-do list? For me, the answer is on the calendar. Block your day with chunks of time to complete tasks, aiming to accomplish them in the time allotted (be sure to give yourself plenty). And for balancing work and personal time, my husband and I have found that syncing a Family iPhone calendar is our magic formula for figuring out kids’ after-school activities and pick-up schedules, along with sharing iPhone Notes for grocery lists and other daily life details.


  1. Let It Go


As someone who has had a personal struggle with anxiety, this is something that I’ve had to master over the years. Work will always be there, as will concerns about tasks, interoffice relationships, goal setbacks, and more. Simply put, life will always present worries – so, to quote Elsa, “Let it go!” Set some time aside at the end of each day to decompress in a healthy way and mentally alleviate pressing work matters – or whatever other concerns might be eating at you. Whether it be meditation, exercise, a TV show you enjoy, or cooking a nutritious meal, there are ways of compartmentalizing worries to remind us that there’s more to life than office (or any other) concerns. Bottom line – we spend enough time at work to waste what precious little time we have outside of it doing nothing but worrying about work!


  1. Prioritize, Please


If we do not have time to reset, what good are we? Life gets hectic for everyone – from the CEO to the busy parent to the new professional – and none of us are immune from managing the work/life juggle. When it comes down to it, true leadership is about prioritizing what’s really important – and that’s our families and ourselves. Your top priority should be taking care of your health, getting enough sleep, and ensuring that you’re operating as well as you can, giving your best each day, and being there for the people who love you. Encourage your colleagues to do the same, and everyone in your orbit will be better for it. Lastly, be easy on yourself! No matter where we are in our career journey, even the CEO with the best-selling book doesn’t have it all figured out. In the words of one of my favorite fitness instructors, Jess Sims, we’re both a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time. Make time for yourself, and the best days – and your best work – will follow.


Many of these topics will be covered in further detail at the PA Chamber’s Women in Business Conference on Friday, April 12 at the Lancaster Marriott! Visit our website to learn more about this day-long celebration of women and to register. 

Lindsay Andrews is director of member communications for the PA Chamber.