In honor of Independence Day in the US this week, we’re taking a look at what it means to be independent at work. While there is an expectation that we show that we are good team players and possess great collaboration skills, independence is also an important leadership competency. Here are a few ideas for building and displaying more independence at work:

  • Be confident in your knowledge and abilities – you have experience and you were hired for your job because you have the necessary knowledge and skills. Often managers view those who doubt themselves, ask questions that they should know the answer to, and approach tasks with anxiety as lacking independence. Take time to write down your strengths and knowledge areas, capture examples of how you have demonstrated those competencies, and commit to owning and leveraging them more at work.
  • Be proactive – devoting time to planning and strategizing allows you to stay ahead of potential obstacles and reduces the time spent reacting to problems. Being proactive also demonstrates your ability to be self-directed, focused, and goal-oriented – all signs of independence.
  • Go against the grain – independence is seen in both action and thought. Show that you are an independent thinker and be willing to share your view even if it is not the commonly held belief.
  • Volunteer to take on more – if you see an opportunity to handle work that you know you can successfully complete, offer to take it on. Better yet, pay attention to what your boss is dealing with and suggest taking a project or task off of her hands.
  • Grow your skill set – taking ownership of your own professional and career development shows those above you that you want to be in control of your growth and your future. Seek out opportunities to build your portfolio of new skills, technologies, and industry/market knowledge. Adopting a continuous learning mentality will pay off.
  • Focus on financial independence too – securing your financial future can give you the room and safety you may need to take risks and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Set short-term and long-term savings goals and be sure to max out your 401K contributions.

The ability to think on your own and to make sense of things based on your personal observations and experiences rather than going along with what others think and believe shows that you are an independent thinker. And being willing to confidently take on a project, self-manage, and take charge of your growth shows that you can effectively work independently.

In addition, if you are a manager who has team members who are too dependent on you, this article by MindTools offers several great tips for building independence among your staff.

What behaviors and actions signal independence to you? How have you cultivated your own independence?
Click here to comment.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in strengthening your independent thinking and action, contact Robyn at

Click here to receive The Thoughtful Leaders™ Blog posts via e-mail and receive a copy of “Ending Leadership Frenzy: 5 Steps to Becoming a More Thoughtful and Effective Leader.”

Photo Credit: CASTALDOstudio/

New York: 212.537.6897 | Pennsylvania: 610.254.0244