Leading when you’re not in charge
There are times when we need to exercise leadership, even when we’re not in charge. Authentic leadership isn’t bestowed on someone, it happens when people can convince others to do something that’s in their collective best interest. While it may seem that leaders are frequently named or chosen, they are more often created when they do things that persuade others to follow them.
Put simply, the best leaders lead by example.
A recent article in Fast Company offers some tips to practice leadership when you’re not in charge. Reading it inspired me to think more about the role we all play as leaders or mentors of leaders—no matter our position in an organization.
Leaders have the courage to act
It takes courage to step up and say, “Let’s go this way.” It takes even more courage when the person speaking up doesn’t have traditional organizational authority. I’ve found it’s much easier to set a collective vision when you have a two-way dialogue than simply telling everyone where the team needs to go. Be inclusive rather than directive.
Leaders are values-driven
Natural leaders are completely in-tune with their personal values, not just their company’s values. Even if leadership doesn’t come naturally, living by your values is a great way to demonstrate to others that your desire to lead isn’t coming from a place of self-interest or ego. Stand out by standing for something.
Leaders tap into their sense of purpose
Some leaders are good at using their own purpose as inspiration to stay laser-focused on the mission and show others the way. Other leaders are good at spotting someone else’s purpose—even if they may not see it in themselves—and helping them tap into it to become more effective. Always do things on purpose.
So, what’s the bottom line? You don’t need to hold a certain job title or manage people directly to be a leader. People who aren’t in traditional leadership roles today can find ways to use persuasion and influence to get things done. As a result, they can position themselves for a more formal leadership role in the future, if that’s their goal.
While leaders can delegate tasks to get more done, leadership isn’t merely telling others what to do. The most effective leaders inspire people to bring their best selves to work every day.