Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
if You Want to Lead


Theories of what separates leaders from followers abound.

Many try to the define traits and behaviors of good leaders so companies can recognize and hire them. For those interested in developing their leadership ability, it can be frustrating to hear about traits that often seem innate, such as charisma.

So I liked the findings of a recent survey from Aon Hewitt, the human resources consulting firm. They identified three similarities among successful leaders:  stretch experiences that taught them important lessons,  a unique belief system, and behavior that “positively and exponentially” impacts the people around them.

In more detail:

  • Experiences shape engaging leaders’ core beliefs about people, work and what it means to be a leader. While each individual’s experiences are unique, the lessons learned throughout their lives consistently transform them as individuals.
  • Guiding beliefs drive how engaging leaders approach work, as well as the behaviors and interactions they have with the people they lead. These core beliefs include servant leadership—that leadership is a responsibility and not a reward—and that relationships, emotions and trust matter.
  • Engaging leaders behave in a way that shares their own engagement and purpose. They strive to stabilize and energize their people and take time to cultivate relationships. Engaging leaders are also authentic because their behaviors are aligned with their beliefs.

While the survey’s goal was to help companies recruit and hire leaders, it offers a great suggestion for employees who want to become better leaders, and be acknowledged as well. Reflection and self-awareness are crucial to determining your beliefs and learning to effectively communicate them. But the survey shows a more tangible step anyone can take to advance their careers.

Seeking out challenging assignments and projects that require you to grow and learn is a key step that anyone can take to develop their leadership capacity. Doing so has the added bonus of attracting attention within your company, helping you stand out from your peers as a leader. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone often means taking a risk, but those risks are usually what catapult you to the top of your company.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and iVillage.com, among others.