Many people dream about being the best in their field: fledgling architects dream about designing the best buildings that challenge gravity and rival imagination; young scientists dream about finding cures to diseases that haven’t even been described in full; starting writers dream about writing the next great novel or poem that will be studied and loved by generations to come. The advantage to being at the bottom of the ladder is that you can dream about rising to the top; the greatest disadvantage is that you can often stay at the bottom for a long time if you don’t take action toward achieving your dreams.
How can you be a great leader in your chosen field? First, you have to select your field. Many people make the mistake of dreaming about being leaders, but end up going from one career to the next without making any considerable progress in each one. If you know your field of specialty, then you can plan exactly where you want your career to go, and how you should achieve what you want.
Second, take steps toward being an expert in your field. Today’s wired world seems to advocate having multiple specialties and doing many things at once. Although this can seem easy with all your communication equipment in tow, you can lose focus along the way and end up tired – but without anything to show for it! Stick with one field and be an expert in it. The key to success is to hone your craft, so do whatever you can to be an expert in your field: attend workshops, join conferences, enroll in educational classes, and read as much as you can.
Third, network and make friends! As soon as you know your field well enough, you will understand that your expertise isn’t entirely self-dependent. Scientists need communicators to make lay people understand the importance of their findings. Architects need accountants to determine the feasibility of their projects. Writers need different experts to confirm the credibility of their work. Make friends, not only in your field, but in the fields of people who can help you in the future.
Fourth and last, set goals for yourself. A well-stated goal can help you achieve success quickly. If being an expert means you should have a PhD, then study for one. If you must publish your work, do so. If you need practice in your sport, practice, practice, practice! The best leaders in their fields not only worked toward greatness, but took the most effective steps in achieving success as soon as they could.