How Bill Gates Prepared Himself for Leadership and Four Powerful Steps You Can Take

The world needs both followers and leaders. But I often get asked by those aspiring to attain roles in leadership, "how can I prepare myself for my next leadership role?"

Depending on your situation, getting into a leadership position might not be that difficult. Becoming a good leader, however, takes time and experience. This article can’t replicate that time and experience, but it can help to get you started.

Know The Requirements For The Next Promotion
The first step to getting a leadership position is finding a job with good upward mobility and keeping an eye out for opportunities. Some jobs only let you move so high without different experience or higher education.

Once you take a job, knowing the next step up and what the requirements are can help you to work toward that next step up by showing that you have the required skills or learning the required skills. Becoming a part time or online student to get any required or preferred degrees can help too.

Let The Boss Know You’re Interested
Hello! Initiative is a huge part of leadership. Don't expect your boss to be a mind reader. Letting your supervisor know that you are interested in taking on a leadership position – even before one becomes available – will let your supervisor know that you have initiative.

Of course, being a leader also requires patience and hard work, so don’t quit the job if a leadership position doesn’t immediately become available. In addition to undoing all of the time and effort that you have put in at your current job, it may suggest to your next employer that you don’t have patience and tenacity.

Take On More Responsibility
Leadership also means responsibility and rarely do leaders get to say, "that's not in my job description". Taking on more responsibility before taking on a leadership position can help you in a number of ways. For one thing, it will show your supervisor that you are willing and able to take on more responsibility. It will also help you to get used to a greater level of responsibility so that when you end up in a leadership position you will know the ropes and know what it takes to work them.

It’s important, however, not to take on too many responsibilities too quickly. Taking on more responsibility will only impress the boss if you are able to handle it. Besides, being a leader also takes restraint and passing up an opportunity because you can admit that you aren’t ready for it is a wise and respectable move.

Find A Mentor
Bill Gates had Warren Buffet as a mentor. Steve Jobs had Bill Campbell as a mentor. Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs as a mentor. You think mentorship might be important? 

If you and the boss are on good terms, and the boss knows that you are looking to – let's be honest—take his or her job, you may be able to arrange a mentorship. Mentorships are great ways to learn the ropes from someone who’s handled them.

Mentorships are also helpful for your supervisor. Look at it this way: your boss is probably looking for their next promotion too (or to retire). Once they move on, they’re going to need someone to fill their shoes. If that person isn’t ready for the job, it’ll be your boss who has to deal with it.

As a result, it’s in your boss’s best interest to have someone ready to take their job when they go on to bigger and better things. This is an essential piece of effective succession planning (more on that in another blog post).

Don’t try to rush into a mentorship too soon, however. Mentorships are all about trust. After all, a crooked mentor could take advantage of all of your time end energy to lighten their load without actually intending to help you. Similarly, you could take advantage of all of their time and energy to put those skills to work at a different job. It takes time to ensure that the mentorship relationship is mutually beneficial.

So if you want to prepare for your next leadership role, the best way to become a good leader is to take advantage of all of the opportunities to learn and grow that following represents.

Phenomenal leaders also follow well!

Keep an eye open for the next opportunity at a leadership position, but don’t take your time as a follower for granted.

How can you learn how to lead well and prepare yourself for your next leadership role? Get instant access to hands-on strategies when you download our free leadership primer!

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