It’s a common misconception that only people in a position of power are leaders. Leadership is a characteristic, not a job title.

There will always be someone above you, so instead of striving for the next higher position, strive to be at the top of your game. Someone put into a position of power has the right to lead, but someone who earns respect and influence others is a leader. Being consistent, committed, and reliable is the base for your leaders, peers, and subordinates to rely on you as someone who can lead.

To become a leader in the eyes of your superiors, there are a few basic things to follow. First, do your own job. You’re there for a reason, and that is to do a job. After you have a handle on your own responsibilities, try to lift the load off your leader. Offer to assist them in a task they’re already doing, offer to do something you know is a strength of yours, or try to knock something off their to-do list before they have to.

To lead across and earn the respect of your peers, you need to focus on supporting them instead of competing with them. Admit your faults and ask for help or advice when needed. Each person we meet has the potential to teach us something, so be willing to learn. On the flip side, “be a river and not a reservoir.” Meaning, knowledge and experience should flow through us, not stop with us. Good leaders give as much knowledge as they receive.

And then what people initially think of when it comes to leadership, we need to lead the people who may be looking up to us. First, realize success has many definitions. Successful people are put in their sweet spot to thrive. Successful leaders put people in those positions. Leaders have a tendency to “encourage” people to work out of their comfort zone. But remember a comfort zone and a strength zone are not the same. No one will reach their full potential outside of their strength zone.

Keep in mind, you can’t lead others until you can lead yourself. If you can’t lead yourself, you have no credibility, others won’t follow you, others won’t respect you, and others won’t work with you. Manage your time. This doesn’t mean just schedule when you’ll be doing what. This also means to value yourself. You can’t value your time until you value yourself. Manage your priorities. You should be spending 80% of your time working where you’re strongest, 15% of your time where you’re learning, and 5% of your time working where it’s necessary. Manage your energy. Don’t start an activity that has no direction and don’t worry about a conflict that you can’t resolve.

You may be wondering where I gained all this wisdom. Well, I attended a class offered on base called “John C. Maxwell: The 360® Leader.” This class taught me so much and I highly recommend it. These points are what resonated with me but all leaders are different so go and see what resonates with you. Go see how you can improve yourself and your workplace.