Most of us are not in positions of leadership.
We aren’t CEOs or Vice Presidents or Directors of departments. Most of us serve at the behest of someone else (or many someone elses).
Yet many of us have a spark of leadership that can’t be quenched.
If we have any inclination toward leadership, then we won’t be able to keep that spark under wraps for long. But how can we develop our leadership skills when we have no position or authority?
My Experiment with Leading from Within
About three years ago, I was struggling with how to lead and influence at the sales organization where I work. Then the perfect opportunity arose.
Due to a software system overhaul, the whole firm had to relearn processes that had been in place for nearly 15 years. Grumbling and complaining were rampant. It was becoming a hindrance to productivity.
While I had no official position or authority, I decided to issue an invitation to my colleagues.
I sent an email to the whole staff, inviting them to a weekly Monday lunch.
- We would not complain or blame (systems, others, etc.)
- We would identify one habit or practice that would help us increase our sales.
- We’d keep each other accountable for this one thing and check in each Monday.
There are about 3-5 of us that still meet Mondays to swap stories, encourage action, and try new methods and strategies.
Creating this group was one way to stretch myself as a leader, regardless of my position, and even if it only resulted in a small group of sales pros who wanted to hone their craft.
Here are four ways you can start leading now, regardless of your position
There are many ways you can start leading yourself and influencing others. Here are some suggestions.
Become an Idea Machine
This suggestion comes from James Altucher’s practice of building your idea muscle. Ideation and innovation are leadership skills. Many of us just get our jobs done, but we always have ideas for improvement. We just don’t identify and take note of these ideas.
Start a practice of coming up with 10 ideas a day that will benefit your boss, colleagues, direct reports, or clients. Don’t worry about sharing them… yet. The right time will find you.
Develop a CEO Mentality
Don’t get uppity, but consider yourself CEO of your career. Your work makes up the services you provide to your key client which happens to be your employer. Filtering your work through the idea of being your own CEO will help you to take greater ownership of the outcomes and value you create for your boss.
Taking ownership is a leadership skill and trait.
Stop Complaining and Avoid Gossip
This one is more about the cultural influence part of leadership than traditional leadership skills. Simply avoiding gossip and putting a lid on your complaining will set you apart from the rest of the crowd at your office.
Highlight the Good Work, Success, and Ideas of Others
One powerful way to lead will be to ask your colleagues and direct reports about their ideas. Send an email to your boss to compliment the good work of a coworker or to share her idea (making sure to give her the credit, of course).
Uncovering the unique perspectives of others and praising them for good work are two more leadership skills that are easily developed regardless of authority or poistion.
How have you led from the inside of your organization?
What ideas can you add that will help others develop leadership skills from the middle of the cubicle farm?