30 Oct 2020

How to Become a Leader in Your Field

Post by Jordan Toplen

Being a leader in your field means prestige. It means options. It means leaving a lasting legacy that cannot be taken from you. It can be very hard to reach such a position – that is, of course, unless you go into your career with that as your goal. With the power of the internet and with the help of a variety of resources available to you right from your computer you can expand your influence and showcase your skillset in ways that others take notice. 

This applies to those in every single field. So long as what you do is of interest to others, even if it is a very niche role, you have an audience. With an audience you can build up the credibility you need to leave a lasting impression, and to even affect policy change. 

Leadership online, leadership in education, and a leadership right in your own office. There are so many ways to become a leader in your field, but at the end of the day there are a few consistent elements you need to have. 

Expertise in Your Field 

First thing, you need to be an expert in your field. You can grow an audience and start developing your position as a youth leader from the start, but if you want to make a lasting impression and provide others in your field with expert analysis and guidance then you will need to know what you are talking about. 

As an engineer, for example, you should have very high qualifications behind you. In such a field that demands state licensure you need to do more than have the base level of skills. You need to have a portfolio that speaks for itself, and ideally years of experience. This doesn’t mean you need to know everything. You may want to start looking into sustainable engineering, for example, but it is your existing expertise that will still make your insight important for the community at large. 

Leadership Soft Skills 

Leadership is so much more than knowing what to do. It’s about working with people. More than that, even, it’s about being able to guide and inspire them. A leader that doesn’t work to improve those underneath them is merely a set of instructions. To lead, you need the confidence of those who work for you. The stronger they are, the stronger you all are together. It’s simple math, but sometimes in the bid to reach the top, some try to step over others in the process. In reality, to reach your goals you need others fighting to help you get there. That is why leadership soft skills are so critical to your success, no matter how you define it. You will need to learn them, practice them, and make them your own. 

  1. Emotional intelligence 
  2. Verbal and nonverbal communication 
  3. Listening skills 
  4. Flexibility and ambiguity 
  5. Conflict negotiation 
  6. Leadership and self-reflection 

You can learn more about the soft skills on your own time, or you can learn them alongside important business, finance, and management skills in an MBA or specialist management degree. For engineers, you have the option of that MBA or go straight into a Master’s of Science in Engineering Management (MSEM). The choice is up to you, but do make sure that there is focus on more than just hard skills, because soft skills like those listed above are what will make you a true leader in every sense of the word. 

Business, Finance, and Marketing Skills 

Leadership comes in many forms, and most highly qualified skilled workers don’t learn those skills on the job or during their education. That is, of course, until they work to earn an MBA or, in the example of the engineer, a specialist masters like the Master of Science in Engineering Management. These degrees build on hard skills in management, finance, and more, as well the soft skills you will need to be a great leader in every environment. 

MBA or MSEM degrees provide experts in their field with the ability to lead. Not just to inspire, but to actually take a business and to propel it. Niche leaders like this are very rare, and work to leave their mark by taking a department or business and bringing it further onto the international stage. Take your efforts as a business leader (either for a company you work for or a company of your own) and use that to educate, inspire, and to inform the greater population. 

Having these business, finance, and marketing skills can help you improve your personal career and your online audience. Use them to build up the repertoire necessary and fight to get on panels, be a guest speaker, or even a guest lecturer. Use your experience and prowess in your industry to leave a lasting mark on the business world and the next generation. 

Educating Skills 

Communication is one of the most important soft skills, and it lends well to those looking to become a true leader in every sense. After all, you cannot leave a lasting mark or even lead effectively without also being a great educator. There will come times, even in management positions, where you need to teach and guide others. 

If you want to take your leadership and legacy beyond your own company, the ability to teach becomes even more important. You need to be able to communicate complex ideas and processes clearly, even to a new audience. This is how you will get invited to interviews, asked to speak at conferences and workshops, and even how you can be brought in on policy changes in your industry. 

Having such a voice is a very powerful thing. You can inspire and change your industry from the inside with such a presence, both at work and online. 

Becoming a Leader in Your Field: Options 

Once you have these four main skills at your disposal, and a great career behind you, you can use these methods to get your voice out there and establish your legacy:

Reach Executive Level Management 

The first option in front of you to become a leader in your field is to become a leader of a very prominent and influential business in your industry. This is one of the more straight-forward options, but unfortunately it can also be plagued with politics and nepotism. You can be the perfect candidate, and still lose out to the job you want because the owner has put their son or daughter into the role instead. 

That is why you need those soft skills. It isn’t just about being able to do the job, it’s about proper communication and networking. You need to work your way into the executive-level management’s good graces, demonstrate and prove your worth, and convince them to hire you above anyone else. That high up, your interpersonal skills are more important than what you can bring to the table, so work on your networking and negotiating capabilities. 

 Start Your Own Business 

It can feel like a game, sometimes, working up to executive-level management. It can be a game you lose, or may not want to play at all. If you want to take a company in the direction you see befits the future best, then start one of your own. If you are ready to take on an executive level role, are top of your field as an engineer or otherwise, and have that MBA or MSEM, then you have everything that you need. 

Work through with others. Ask questions. Build up funding. Most of all, try to find a unique angle that will set you apart. This can be your experience and your connections, or it could be a new way to approach business. Either way, you will have a lot of challenges ahead of you, but the payoff can mean a lasting legacy and a company that is yours alone. 

Guest Speak, Lecture, and Connect with the General Public 

There are many ways you can become a leader to the general public. Attend events, conferences, and so on. Introduce yourself to those who organize these events and let them know your interest in speaking. You could even write a book. By putting your face out there and being part of these public discussions you can help inspire and even shift the industry as a whole to a better tomorrow

If you think of some other way to get your voice out there and to truly lead the industry as a whole, then pursue it. Finding new avenues and new ways to make your mark is the sign of a true leader. No matter what, however, reaching your goal, no matter what level or reach that may offer, is rewarding and worth striving for. Be a leader in your company. Start your own business. Or become a voice to inspire and educate the next generation. All are brilliant ways to leave a lasting legacy, so build up the necessary skills and take the next step forward.