This post is part of TED’s “How to Be a Better Human” series, each of which contains a piece of helpful advice from people in the TED community; browse through all the posts here.
Just because you don’t have a title, that doesn’t mean you’re not a leader.
But if you want to someday gain that title and a position of team leader or manager, then there’s a dilemma you’ll have to reconcile. You’ll have to be able to demonstrate leadership at work to the people who make promotion decisions — without having had a leadership role to point to.
Still, working on any team creates leadership moments that you’ve probably seized upon in the past. You just might not have known about them, or you might not have recognized them.
Too many people try to shift blame and make excuses, but great leaders take ownership of problems and work to find lessons and solutions.
Here, I’ll share five ways to demonstrate leadership at work so you can recognize those moments, act on them and use them to make the argument on why you’re the leader that your organization needs:
1. Take responsibility
Take initiative when new assignments appear, and be the first to volunteer for new tasks that are applicable to your skill set. Note: You don’t need to volunteer for everything and you shouldn’t — just the ones that offer a real chance to either use or further develop your skills.
In addition, take responsibility for your contributions — even when projects go wrong. Too many people try to shift blame and make excuses, but great leaders take ownership of problems and work to find lessons and solutions. That responsibility mentality is also what separates aspiring leaders from inevitable leaders.
2. Include other people
Every organization wants leaders who believe that the success of the team outweighs the success of any individual. The best way to demonstrate that is by making sure others are included in meetings, brainstorming sessions and key decisions. The level to which you can involve others on your projects or offer to help others with their projects shows the level to which you’re ready for leadership.
By collaborating more, you’ll also benefit from learning about a more diverse set of experiences and skillsets. And you’ll build relationships with people who might just be a part of the team you’re one day asked to lead.
The level to which you can involve others on your projects or offer to help others with their projects shows the level to which you’re ready for leadership.
3. Speak up
Be willing to share your ideas in meetings, be willing to offer feedback to colleagues and your supervisor, and be willing to champion ideas (yours or others) in meetings when decisions are being made. You don’t have to be a loud, extroverted person who is constantly your thoughts, but you do have to get your ideas out there.
If you have trouble getting your voice heard during a group meeting, you can speak up privately with the people you want to hear your ideas — either during a one-on-one conversation or via email. But if you truly believe you’ve got a great idea to contribute, you owe it to your team to speak up — and doing so will help you get noticed as a potential leader as well.
4. Ask questions
Asking questions isn’t just a way to speak up when you don’t have an idea to offer — although that can be the reason and it does work. Asking questions during team meetings or conversations with colleagues helps people think through their ideas and find improvements.
Asking questions also shows your dedication and enthusiasm to the team and your ability to see things others may not see. And it provides you with the chance to make a contribution even when you’re not submitting an idea. Eventually, asking intelligent questions often leads to you being seen as a source for advice and aid — and maybe even being trusted with a new leadership role.
It’s important to be a team player, to speak up and to ask questions. But if you’re doing that yet failing at your tasks, then you may not keep your existing role for long.
Always deliver what you promise. Get your work done on time and to the standard that’s expected. When you volunteer for new assignments, make sure you can deliver on them as well.
Most often in organizations, the people who get fast-tracked for leadership roles are the ones seen as high performers. It’s important to be a team player, to speak up and to ask questions. But if you’re doing all of that yet failing at your assigned tasks, then you may not keep your existing role for long — let alone be considered for leadership roles.
Keep in mind: These five activities aren’t just about being noticed during leadership moments, they’re also about acquiring new skills for yourself — effectively creating your own leadership development program. Yes, they’ll give you something to talk about in an interview, but more importantly they’ll give you new tools that will help you work better.
This way, you’ll become a leader — even before you’re given that title — who is able to help your team do their best work ever.
This article originally appeared on DavidBurkus.com and has been adapted with the author’s permission.
Watch his TEDxUniversityofNevada Talk here: