No matter your work status, you need to show initiative if you want to be seen as a leader. Researchers Michael Frese and Doris Fay define initiative as “work behavior characterized by its self-starting nature, its proactive approach, and by being persistent in overcoming difficulties that arise in pursuit of a goal.” You do things without being assigned to tasks, and you keep pushing forward when things get tough. You also take advantage of opportunities when they are offered.
When you show initiative, you do things without being told; you find out what you need to know; you keep going when things get tough, and you seek and take advantage of opportunities that others pass by. You act, instead of reacting, at work.
If you possess a particular skill, you help others learn what you know. You are not afraid of making other members of the team look good.
If you are trying to position yourself as a leader, don’t narrow your work focus to your department. Volunteer to work with other teams on interdisciplinary projects. It’s not only a good way to gather more information and experience but also to let others see your skills and work ethic. Raising your visibility in your company will also benefit you when promotions are being considered. Even if work projects are not typically shared between departments, you can also work with other teams on other things such as planning a holiday party, happy hours, etc.
Be the person to pick up the slack when a colleague is out ill or on vacation. Senior managers always appreciate when workers are willing to do this as it solves a significant problem.
Similarly, if your company has remote workers who need an inside liaison, volunteer to be that point person.
Show initiative by suggesting ideas to make processes more efficient or help the company be more successful.
It’s also a good idea to align your work with your boss’s priorities. Provide updates on the status of your projects and take the time to listen to what your boss shares about big-picture priorities.
As you review these ideas, you might be thinking that you can never do these new things and your regular work. This is why it is equally important to be as productive as possible and decide that you won’t waste any time on nonproductive activities.