Success depends on being able to work with others, and perhaps the greatest advantage you can have is working in a group. There are a handful of isolated successes who rose to the top by themselves, and a somewhat larger number of people who were terrible at group interactions but succeeded anyway. The typical path, however, involves meetings, joint projects, cooperative ventures, and staff conferencing. How you behave in a group will play a big part in whether people want to turn to you for input.
Let's say that you realize this basic fact and see yourself leading a group. If you have learned how to thrive in group situations, there's no reason why you shouldn't be a natural at leading one, whether it's a weekly staff meeting or a major project.
The secret of being a leader is to know what a group needs.
These needs are often not verbalized. People are too involved with the task at hand or they don't want to speak up for various personal reasons, including the thorny issues of office politics.
Each of the group’s needs implies a specific behavior on your part, as follows:
Be optimistic and supportive. All groups respond to hope. They need to be told that tomorrow will be better.
Be appreciative. All groups need to be inspired about what they are doing. This is different from offering external motivations like money and raises. Feeling worthy is far more important.
Build trust. All groups need to know that their leader is loyal and supportive. If a leader is just passing through on his way up the ladder, the group responds accordingly. The best leaders take their cohorts with them as they rise to the top.
Protect the group. Insecure groups need to be reassured that they are safe. Any threat that undermines the group must be addressed openly. The solution that comes out of the discussion should benefit everyone in the group if possible (as when companies hard hit by the recession laid off no one but instead provide part-time work to everyone).
Promote and reward achievement. Groups that are doing well competitively need greater challenges. Their motivation is to keep proving themselves.
Be a catalyst for others and give them leeway for their own ideas. Creative groups need new, innovative ideas. Here the leader functions as a sounding board for any and all suggestions. Suppressing the creativity of any member sends a signal that creativity isn't valued for its own sake. Such an attitude quickly kills the spirit of innovation.
Be aware of the group’s mood and seek to raise it. All groups need morale. You need to be open and honest about any person or behavior - including your own - that is hurting morale.
As you can see, the so-called born leader isn't what a group needs. They need a leader who presides over a healthy, open, expansive feedback loop. You can start implementing these behaviors immediately, even if you aren’t the group leader. They allow you to thrive within the group rather than feeling frustrated.