There's a lot of insecurity in the working world these days.
Artificial intelligence and automation are threatening to replace humans in fields that once seemed secure. Mass lay-offs continue at some of the world's most iconic companies. And the rise of the "sharing economy" and the "gig economy" is disrupting industries and transforming how work gets done, and by whom.
There's a radical shift underway from traditional jobs-for-life, to a world where people are trading their skills and time independent of the corporate structures that have (and still do) dominate so much of our working lives.
Which is all to say that all of us need to become leaders, even if our formal job title doesn't reflect that role. Yes, many leaders do end up with the big title and the corner office. Many leaders do have large teams of people that report directly, or indirectly, to them.
But to be a leader, you don't need the traditional trappings of corporate success. To be a leader, you don't need to have a fancy title or have a corner (or window-facing) office all to yourself. You don't need to have armies of people doing your bidding.
Whether you're working in a corporate job or pursuing your entrepreneurial dream, here are eight essential leadership traits you'll need to thrive in today's increasingly uncertain economy:
1. Hold true to your convictions.
Being a leader is holding true to your convictions, abiding by your values, and doing what is right -- "even when nobody is looking" -- as the poster says on the wall of my kids' school.
2. Generously share your ideas.
Being a leader means not just thinking of creative ideas for improving how things are done, but sharing them proactively, without worrying that someone will reject it, or take credit for it.
3. Think several steps ahead.
Being a leader is thinking two, three, or six steps ahead -- and then plotting a path to get there. One of the best pieces of advice I've ever received during my career is from a project manager I once worked with early on in my career. He told me to always be thinking one or two weeks ahead on a project. Anticipate the problems you need to solve, and start solving them before you reach the point on your "workplan" that tells you that you should be solving them, he advised.
4. Take the first step.
Being a leader is taking the first step when nobody else even thinks of taking it -- or are too afraid to.
5. Have the courage to defend your ideas.
Being a leader is having the guts to speak up and defend yourself or your ideas, even when that makes you the "lone man (or woman) in the room."
6. Treat others as you hope they would treat you.
Being a leader is treating others as you would hope they treat you. The most inspiring and successful leaders I know are the ones who treat people as individuals with unique personalities, valuable skills, and rich personal lives beyond the office. And they treat everyone with the same level of respect, regardless of how far up in the corporate pyramid they stand.
7. Give generously of your knowledge and skills.
Being a leader is sharing generously of your knowledge and skills--without asking for anything in return.
8. Have confidence in your own abilities.
Being a leader is having confidence and trust in yourself and in your abilities -- even when others don't know you well enough (or simply don't care enough) to have the same level of confidence and trust in you. For the young professionals out there, know this: No matter how long you've done something or how good you are at it, there will always be doubters. You can beat the doubters by believing in yourself.