Demonstrating Leadership Before and After Landing Your Job

Many ambitious young feds want to move into leadership positions. Hard work, coupled with the passage of time, can help you get a top spot in your organization, but even now, you can begin reaching for roles and responsibilities that will allow you to demonstrate your leadership skills. These opportunities might be big or small, but what is most important is that you show (not tell) your boss, mentor, etc. that you can lead. Below are some recommendations on how to demonstrate your leadership skills both prior to being hired and once you’re on the job.

On Your Resume or In an Interview

  • Highlight areas on your resume in which you took on a leadership role by listing those responsibilities first.
  • If you have been asked to provide references, choose those who have first-hand knowledge of or experience with your leadership skills.
  • Give examples under each position of innovative problem solving approaches you developed.
  • Before your interview, review your resume and look specifically at the positions (this can include experience in a club or other non-work organization) in which you had leadership responsibility. In two to three sentences, concisely describe what was expected of you, how you handled the challenge, and what was the outcome.
  • Behavioral interview questions have become a standard. At some point, you’ll likely be asked to “speak about a time you displayed leadership skills,” or some variation of that. While it might seem like you’re bragging, this isn’t a place to be modest. This is the best time to sell yourself and explain, using specific examples, one of your best leadership moments and how it impacted your workplace.

On the Job

  • If you know of a great upcoming opportunity to lead a project, explain to your boss how your past experience could influence your ability to lead the project, and bring about its ultimate success. Give concrete examples of changes you’ve made in the past through leadership positions.
  • Leaders are excellent communicators, and they know how to use different methods or adapt the message for their audience. Show your boss that you are capable of communicating with everyone within and outside of your team at the appropriate level.
  • Talk with your boss about the role you’d like to play in your organization in the future. Describing your intent to grow within the organization demonstrates your commitment, which is an essential part of being a leader.
  • Be open to criticism and seek feedback. This will help your boss understand that you can be a true leader who seeks the best possible solution to a problem, rather than a dictator.
  • Adapt to any situation as required without becoming outwardly frustrated or upset. Develop effective methods to mitigate stress.
  • Be a good listener, and establish rapport with those working in all different positions around you. Take into consideration advice or suggestions when you hold decision-making authority.
  • As you grow in your role, accept feedback or criticism, and take on new challenges, you should constantly be improving yourself. Allow your boss to see your desire for personal growth by working on a variety of projects, completing self-evaluations, and attending trainings.
  • Show your boss that you can prioritize work and achieve the appropriate balance between competing projects.
  • Stand alone when you need to, and stand by difficult decisions that you have been asked to make. However, be ready to admit when you made a mistake, and figure out the best possible way to fix it.
  • Be an opposing voice when appropriate. If you think there is a better way to do something, don’t hesitate to give your opinion when called upon.
  • Be open and honest with your boss and co-workers. If you’ve missed a deadline or if you don’t understand how to complete something, ask for assistance and admit that you have a problem. This isn’t a sign of weakness, in fact, it takes courage.
  • Help your co-workers achieve their goals alongside yours. Celebrate their successes to show your boss that you are a team player.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of your agency’s or team’s goals and use this to prioritize work.
  • Always be moving forward. Don’t spend time criticizing co-workers for mistakes or decisions made in the past. Overcome what happened, and move on.
  • Delegate work when you are able to, and be fair in how you choose to go about this.
  • Be an imaginative, creative problem-solver. Out of the box ideas are what will get you noticed.

How have you demonstrated your leadership experience? Tell us in the comments!

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