What makes a leader? The answer to that question is changing and the traits of great leadership are evolving as our world becomes faster-moving, more connected and more digital.  Today, a good organisation needs leaders at all levels, of all ages, and with all sorts of different experiences and perspectives. In other words, people like you!

Dr Sarah Wood

Dr Sarah Wood

That doesn’t have to mean you want to be a CEO or start a fast growing company. You can lead in all roles and with all levels of experience. So whether you’re taking on your first management position, changing your career, or starting up your own business, here are 5 ways to back yourself and become a leader:

Take on new responsibility- while not everyone is a naturally assertive character, it’s important to recognise that the days when talent simply rose to the top are gone. You can’t expect that your good work will be recognised and rewarded purely on its own merits; you have to be your own champion, ask to take on new responsibilities and make suggestions for things to change.

Find a specialism- identify an area where you can develop specialist knowledge and expertise that allows you to stand out. Invest time and energy in becoming the in-house expert on your chosen topic: set up search alerts for your chosen keywords or subscribe to daily newsletters from authorities in your chosen field. Be generous about your expertise and work to spread it within your company.

Share your ideas- One by-product of rapid change is that good companies know they need good ideas. In a good company, it doesn’t matter if you’re new to the business, what matters is having an idea, a solution or a suggestion and having the courage to step forward and share it. You should take advantage of this new licence to think and contribute to the important decisions. Familiarise yourself with the key decision-making moments in your company and find out the best way to input your ideas. Back your ideas. We know you’ve got some!

Try things out: Today, you can start a business for £12 in less than 24 hours. You can create broadcast content on your smartphone. You can communicate with almost any public figure via social media, or at least try to. The barriers to pursuing your big idea and making something happen have never been lower. You have the capacity to experiment, and you need to use it. Try something that’s quick and cheap and see what you learn from it. If you can share your learnings and questions on Twitter or LinkedIn, better still, as you might get some helpful answers, find some like-minded people and at the same time position yourself as an experimenter in the field.

Find small ways to show your gratitude: whether it’s a simple email, thank-you card or personal gift. When things don’t go as planned, people who have learned gratitude are more resilient and faster to bounce back. When opportunities come their way, they feel luckier about having the chance to do more and achieve more- this leads to a positive spiral of success and confidence.

By Sarah Wood and Niamh O’Keefe, authors of Stepping Up: How to accelerate your leadership potential (FT Publishing, £14.99) available now.

Dr Sarah Wood is the co-founder and CEO of Unruly www.unruly.co

Based in London’s Tech City and led by co-founders Scott Button, Sarah Wood, and Matt Cooke, Unruly is one of the world’s most innovative ad tech companies, getting videos seen, shared and loved across the open web. Its proprietary technology brings emotional intelligence to digital advertising in order to increase viewer engagement, brand performance and publisher revenues.

Driven by an interest in the creative and collaborative opportunities afforded by the social web and internet culture, Sarah, Scott and Matt could see that online video was about to pop. Together, they successfully developed the company, opening 20 offices and working with 90% of Ad Age 100 brands before being acquired by News Corp in 2015 for £114m. Unruly now employs over 300 people globally, who step up every day to #DeliverWow for brands and agencies.

Niamh O’Keeffe is a leadership advisor, published author and founder of First100. Niamh provides advice on key moments in the leadership role lifecycle; how to get promoted, how to have a great first 100 days, how to stay the course and legacy projects.

Niamh is the founder & Managing Director of First100 – a niche advisory business supporting leaders in the first 100 days of a new role appointment. She has a track record of over 25 years’ career experience, including eight years as a strategy consultant with Accenture, two years as an executive search consultant in the city of London, and over 12 years advisory experience as Founder and Managing Director of First100 www.First100assist.com.