How to Be Your Own Boss, Even When You Work for Someone Else


You don’t have to own your own company to “be your own boss.” You can enjoy the benefits of an entrepreneurial mindset right now, right where you are, even if you work for someone else.

But why should you think and act like a boss, especially if you aren’t one yet?

First of all, the more sense of ownership you have over your work and your career path, the more motivated you’ll be to get the job done and perform well. You’ll have the sense that you’re working for your own goals and satisfaction, not just to tick off another “to do” item on a list that’s been delegated to you by someone else. Feeling as if you’re in control of your own performance and productivity improves job satisfaction and makes you happier to come to work each day and motivated to challenge yourself and grow.

And, it’s pretty simple… if you act like a boss or a leader long enough, it’s pretty likely you’ll become one. By positioning yourself as someone who takes calculated risks that pay off, who thinks outside the box and is always looking for innovative solutions, and who, in general, is motivated, excited, and invested in doing good work, you’re putting yourself on a clear path to career advancement.

Here are some strategies you can do now that will help you to think more like a boss:

Take risks

Successful bosses know when to play it safe and when to take risks in order to grow. In fact, growth isn’t really possible without some risk taking. Even if you aren’t self employed, you can still incorporate risk-taking strategies into your role. Don’t be afraid to propose new ideas, processes, or initiatives, even if those suggestions fall outside of your immediate job duties. Be bold and precise in your day-to-day routine, and never get too comfortable or fall into a “rut” where you’re just going through the motions in your job. Whether you’re dealing with colleagues, your organization’s leaders, consumers, or customers, try to regularly push yourself to take risks and propose new and innovative ideas or approaches. Growth and progress will always be a little uncomfortable, so don’t let fear keep you from taking a chance.

Know your strengths

Even the most highly effective leaders, bosses, or entrepreneurs don’t “know it all.” What they do know is how to tap into their available resources and talent to support them in their weaker areas. If you want to feel like a “boss” at work, don’t try to take on everything. Self awareness is key here. Know what you’re good at, but also have a solid understanding of areas, skills, or activities where you might need a little support. Then, reach out to others to get it.

Take the initiative

Good leaders don’t wait for direction on every single idea or initiative. They see a need, a goal, or a challenge, and they figure out a way to address it on the spot. While you may not have the autonomy to run with every idea you have without consulting anyone else, adopting a proactive attitude to your workload will not only impress your own bosses, but it will also have a positive impact on your own job performance.

Have a sense of ownership

By understanding that you “own” your projects and workload, you will naturally be more invested in the outcomes and feel that you have more at stake. How do you develop a sense of ownership? First, remember that the projects you complete or the professional interactions you have are each small steps that make up your larger career path. Your productivity in many ways defines your professional reputation, which is one of the most valuable assets you have. Second, don’t make excuses. Even when you hit roadblocks that are out of your control, maintain the sense that you’re ultimately responsible for the outcome of the project. By adopting this kind of accountability and “the buck stops here” attitude, you naturally position yourself as a leader in your organization.

Project confidence

Being confident in your abilities, knowledge, and experience is key to working like a “boss.” Again, this goes back to self awareness. When you have a true sense of your strengths and aptitudes, you should allow that sense of confidence and capability to inform the way you work. And, confidence is contagious. If you believe in your abilities (and you have the substance to back it up), your bosses and coworkers will too.

Become a lifelong learner

Great bosses never stop learning, expanding their skill set, or breaking out of their comfort zone. Take responsibility for your own professional development and push yourself to be constantly learning about your field or industry, new practices, or innovative approaches to your job. Not only will adopting an attitude of learning keep you updated on best practices and key trends, it will also strengthen your sense of ownership over your own career path.

Be passionate

If you don’t care about your work or aren’t motivated to grow and accomplish your goals, you’ll find it difficult to do any of these other initiatives that will make you feel like a boss or leader at work. Before you can do things like risk taking, continuing your education or learning new skills, or taking the initiatives on new projects, you first have to have the will to get things done and care enough about your job to make it happen. If you find yourself struggling to muster up even a little bit of passion for your work, you may want to consider finding a new opportunity that you can get your head and heart around.

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