I joined The Penny Hoarder just under four years ago as a staff writer with no eye to becoming a leader in the company. I just wanted to write. But as opportunities came up, I became more invested in its success and interested in new ways to grow with the company.
Within two years, I nabbed a management position despite having less experience than the people I manage, and I think my success in this role has hinged on my focus in three key areas of personal development: hard skills, risk taking and people skills.
If you're new to leadership or just want to become the best leader you can, here are some steps you can take to home in on these areas and set yourself up to be a strong leader.
1. Nail your hard skills.
We've all heard that being the best at your job doesn't necessarily make you the best suited to lead the team. And those who are best suited to lead aren't always the best at the jobs they oversee. But I still recommend being darn good at your job while taking on a leadership role.
Nailing your hard skills -- becoming a stellar editor, developer or account manager, for example -- demonstrates your value. As an entrepreneur, this can help you see your strengths and core competencies, so you know who you have to hire and when to step aside and let someone else shine.
I've gotten every job I've had because of my writing skill first. Before I had any business or management savvy, I made my way into roles that would have otherwise required it because I could show my value as a writer.
2. Take on work outside of your comfort zone.
Once you're the best whatever-you-are that you can be, look outside of your core competency. Taking on new kinds of work can widen your skill set and deepen your understanding of your industry and your team.
Look for opportunities to take on jobs outside of your purview. Don't be afraid of work you've never done before. Just find ways to apply your top-notch hard skills, so you can provide value while you learn. This'll help you develop the broad skill set you'll want to run a company and teach you to face those fears of the unknown that come with the risks necessary to growing a business.
When The Penny Hoarder was a fledgling startup of a dozen employees, I took on a ton of stuff I'd never done before, including social media, graphic design and even one fateful afternoon as a video producer. I've since handed those tasks off to the pros, but that early dabbling helped inform the cross-functional work I do now.
3. Fill the gaps in your people skills.
As a leader, you always have to go beyond doing a good job to helping others do a good job through training, coaching and managing. Focus on developing soft skills such as communication, collaboration, adaptability and time management.
As an entrepreneur, these are the skills you need to oversee your workforce. They show your team you're not just a great worker (though you are), but that you're also fit to lead them.
I often think of these as the "people" skills (where my hard skills are the "work" skills), and they're the trickier ones for me to master. Because I first nailed my hard skills and widened my skill set, I've been able to focus on strengthening my leadership skills since becoming a manager.