5 Key Steps to Be a Leader in Your Industry

See also: Leadership Styles

No one aims to be a follower—on the contrary, people set goals to become leaders.

However, just because you want to be a leader in your industry doesn’t mean it will happen overnight. It takes plenty of hard work, dedication, and intelligent planning to become a leader.

Here, we’ll cover five key steps to help you become a leader in your industry.

What Makes a Leader?

Consider what traits great leadership comprises. Are good leaders stubborn, ill-tempered, or difficult to communicate with? Most often not.

Leader wearing a suit

Leaders often display similar traits. According to trait theory, these characteristics can include:

  • Intelligence
  • Adjustability
  • Trustworthiness
  • Charisma
  • Creativity
  • Honesty
  • Self-Awareness
  • Strong belief in one’s ability

While leaders are not all the same, they are often experts in their craft, have magnetic personalities, exude confidence, and bring out the best in the people around them. These qualities aren’t simply innate, they are developed and perfected over time.

The steps listed below will help you develop your own leadership style.

Set Goals and Make a Plan

The first step towards becoming a leader in your field is to set a goal for where you want to go, and create a plan to help you get there.

Leaders don’t simply fall into positions of authority, they plan and work for it their whole lives. They need a clear vision and a road map to get there in order to inspire others to follow them.

Consider presidential candidates. They almost always have advanced degrees from top schools, years of experience leading people, and years of experience working in their field. Goals, planning, and hard work transforms them into leaders.

The same goes for you. Setting goals and creating a plan of action is one of the most important steps to reach the top of your industry. After all, you need to know where you’re going before others will follow you there.

See our pages on Strategic Thinking and Action Planning for more information.

Education and Training

Great leaders know their stuff. That’s because great leaders invest the time and resources into education and training. There are two types of education: formal and informal.

Formal education and training includes schools, training seminars, courses, and apprenticeships, among other traditional learning environments. Taking business development classes will help you to understand how to build a business from the ground up. This kind of education will prepare you for the rigors of leadership by imparting the collected knowledge and experience of other experts in your field.

Informal education and training takes place in your day-to-day life. It includes interactions with other people and work experiences. When you have a bad interaction with someone in authority over you, it is a learning experience. You have the opportunity to learn what doesn’t work as a leader.

Likewise, your daily experience can inform your leadership style. Find leaders in your community and emulate the traits and actions you find most inspiring. Finding a mentor can be one of your most rewarding educational experiences.


A key trait shared by almost every leader is the ability to communicate effectively. Leaders need to be able to succinctly define their goals, their plans, and why their methods will work to inspire confidence in those around them.

Communication isn’t just about talking, it’s also about listening. The best communicators listen to the people around them. Listening to the needs and complaints of your team will help you communicate effective solutions. Likewise, great leaders are approachable and able to accept constructive criticism.

Great communicators are able to market their work and meet the needs of the community they serve. For example, if you run a plumbing business, you need to effectively communicate what makes your service the best for your community. Is it your attention to detail, your years of experience, or maybe your state-of-the-art tools and training?

Regardless, great leaders are excellent communicators, educators, and listeners. As an expert in your field, you have the opportunity to impart your wisdom to those around you.

See Coaching Skills for more information.

Work Hard

Great leaders don’t simply talk about getting the job done, they do it.

To be a leader in your industry, you need to lead by example. The best leaders inspire those around them because they put in the hard work and determined effort to get the job done right.

No one is inspired by a leader who shirks responsibility and floats by. That type of leadership will produce shoddy work at best.

The best way to lead is to take responsibility for the task at hand and engage with enthusiasm and passion. To be a true leader in your industry, you need the work to back you up. All the education, planning, and communication in the world won’t help you instill confidence if you don’t do the work yourself.

Invest in Your Team

The final step to becoming a leader in your field is to invest in your team. Being a leader doesn’t mean you keep others down, it means you build others up.

Caring about your team, investing in their education, and encouraging their creativity ultimately benefits you as a leader.

You’ll get the best from your team by building them up, and they’ll help make you a leader in your field. Investing in your staff is a mutually beneficial task.

Leaders who discourage creative thinking, new ideas, and limit the strengths of their team produce subpar work. However, when every member of your team feels encouraged and invested in, they will produce their best work. Investing in your team exemplifies the saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership eBooks

Learn more about the skills you need to be an effective leader.

Our eBooks are ideal for new and experienced leaders and are full of easy-to-follow practical information to help you to develop your leadership skills.

The Right Stuff

Whether you are seeking a business development course or an internship with an expert from your industry, it’s crucial to have the tools you need to be a leader.

A wide range of classes, courses, and seminars can give you the training you need to be an expert in your trade, and can also help you to create plans to meet your personal goals.

From understanding that great leadership takes its course when you apply yourself with a positive attitude and a go-getter mentality, it’s essential to implement personal characteristics that will not only help you become a reputable leader in your industry, but will also bring to light the strengths that you carry as an individual. In this way, you encourage others to be the best versions of themselves, all while carrying forth the determination to reach a goal.

About the Author

Andrew Hoffman is a freelance writer and journalist from Los Angeles, CA, who has written on behalf of a range of clients including the Livestrong Network and Demand Media.

In addition to writing about a range of topics, he enjoys surfing in Santa Monica and collecting classic, first-edition novels.