When I’m asked about core leadership traits, of course I mention ethics and communication and all the other basic competencies of anyone striving to make it in a company (or society-at-large). However, successful leaders have a characteristic that sets them apart from the masses—they are assertive.
Assertiveness is your ability to demonstrate healthy confidence, to be direct and honest. It is not aggression or seeking dominance over others, but simultaneously standing up for yourself while respecting other people’s rights. It’s like Wolverine from the X-Men movies and Logan.
Wolverine conducts himself with quiet self-assurance. He says what he thinks, speaks up when something bothers him, and has no problem making his opinions known. Sure, some will say he’s the very definition of aggression with his proclivity to destroy and his hair-trigger temper, but these bouts typically occur when he’s provoked, not because he seeks them out. No, Wolverine is assertive. Thankfully we don’t need his retractable claws, indestructible skeleton, or regenerative abilities to follow suit. Just try these nine suggestions.
Display confidence. If you want to be seen as assertive, consider your posture, tone, and general persona. Speak clearly. Stand up straight. Make eye contact. Don’t fidget. And walk with purpose.
Be direct. Assertiveness and brevity go hand in hand. No need for elaborate explanations, keep your requests simple, straightforward, and respectful.
Take responsibility. If you are waiting for other people to solve your problems, you might be confusing passiveness with assertiveness. If an aspect of your life needs to change, own it and do something about it.
And take responsibility. Being assertive means being accountable for the consequences of your actions. Take your lumps, learn from them, move on.
Say no. Unless you agree with every request, you need to exert some assertiveness by saying no. Be courteous, but be firm.
Stop apologizing. Too often, “nice” people feel guilty for asserting their needs and wants. Unless you’re nearing diva territory, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t apologize; just be polite and appreciative.
Don’t be pressured into justifying your views. When people are uncomfortable, they often try to defend or rationalize their decisions. Be able to explain your opinions without feeling compelled to make excuses for them.
Say what you think. No one knows what is on your mind unless you tell them. If you need something, say it. If you have a problem, speak up.
Be patient. Learning to become more assertive takes time and practice… so keep practicing.