To Become a Leader, Act Like One

Don’t wait for a promotion to change your mindset and behavior

Dave Anderson
Forge
Published in
6 min readOct 28, 2019

--

Credit: Tim Robberts/Getty

SSoon after I got the very first promotion of my career, I noticed something odd. I felt different. I was acting differently, too — in my interactions with my peers, the way I allocated my time, how I tackled projects. With a more senior title, I realized, I’d subconsciously started acting how I believed a more senior person should act.

I liked the change in myself. At the same time, though, it was also frustrating to realize how much influence my job title had held over my behavior. If I’d just acted this way to begin with, I remember thinking, I could have gotten that promotion much faster. I also didn’t love that I had let external feedback control my internal image of who I was. I had waited for the external validation of being promoted to determine who I was as a leader rather than relying on my internal self-image.

Every chance I could, I used my internal dialogue to remind myself I was a senior leader.

So I decided that going forward, I would pretend. Since my promotion had helped me to act the way I wanted to, I would force the same effect by mentally adding one level to my job title at all times. In other words, as long as I was a “Level 2” manager, I would mentally tell myself I was a “Level 3” manager. Repeatedly. Over and over again. Every chance I could, I used my internal dialogue to remind myself I was a senior leader.

It’s a funny little thing, but it made a drastic difference in my behavior. When I’ve suggested this trick to my mentees at Amazon, many have come back saying it changed their career trajectory for the better.

Of course, it’s not terribly useful to say, “Just act more senior.” Here are steps to take to understand that goal and then create a plan to accomplish it.

Observe senior leaders

To get yourself in the right headspace, pay attention to the people above you in the workplace hierarchy. I don’t mean taking mental notes on how to impress them. I don’t mean focusing on what they’re telling you to do. For this to work, you need to adopt the mindset of an objective observer, studying the…

--

--

Dave Anderson
Forge
Writer for

Former Head of Technology at Bezos Academy, Director/GM at Amazon. Husband, and Father. Find me at https://scarletink.com/