Stand Up and Lead! | 10 Ways You Can Be a Leader Even if It's Not in Your Job Title
Something I’ve learned well in the past 10 years or so, as I’ve gotten older and as I’ve worked under some really incredible - and even some really terrible — bosses, is that anyone can be a leader. Yup, it’s true. Anyone. It’s not something that’s necessarily bestowed upon you; it’s something you can create for yourself.
And the big secret? Not everyone wants to be a leader. There are many, many people out there who want to be followers, who don’t want to make decisions and who don’t speak up for themselves. If you don’t fall in that category, you’re already halfway there!
Now, let me clarify a little here. I’m not a ladder climber. I’m not a suck up. I hate office politics and the bullshit that goes on in the upper levels of most companies and organizations (mine included). This isn’t about ladder climbing; it’s about stepping up and showing initiative. About using your ideas to make your project, your role or your team better. It’s about getting decisions made when everyone else is dragging their feet.
I’m the nosiest, most inquisitive person on my team. I ask a lot of questions, I volunteer to participate in a lot of projects and I want to know what’s going on - even if it doesn’t directly involve me. Knowledge is power my friends - and I’m always looking for more.
So don’t just sit on the bench waiting for other people to give you work or projects; be proactive, show your interest and ability and step up as the go-to in your area and you’ll be seen as a leader on your team whether HR does or not.
Give your opinion and ideas to anyone who will listen. If it’s not your boss, find a mentor or a peer. Put your heads together, write a proposal and send it up the chain of command. Will your ideas be used? Maybe not. But you’ll be seen as someone with creativity and initiative and people remember that.
Ask a ton of questions. It shows initiative and interest. Colleagues and bosses want people on their projects who really dig in and learn the role and the work.
Don’t always take no for an answer. There’s no better way to show your passion about something, then to refuse to take no for an answer. Keep pushing. Sure, revise your first idea to incorporate feedback; but keep pushing if it’s something you believe in.
Take people along with you. Being a leader is also about bringing out the best in the people around you. If you have a team of timid types, encourage them to come out of their shells and give their opinions. All boats will rise and you’ll be seen as the captain.
Have a plan and write it down. Sure, it’s great to have opinions (I’m looking at you, men) but it’s even better to have a plan to execute your ideas. Write it out. Whether it’s a proposal or just a nice list of bullet points (I love lists), put it on paper and send it out for others to consider. Sometimes my plans are used, sometimes they’re not. But you know what? Having input and having your ideas at least considered is pretty satisfying.
Be helpful. Be known as the “go-to” person on your team. The one who knows everything and who is always there to help. Your stock will go up and people will view you as a leader without even realizing.
Always ask for more. No matter how busy you are, put it out there that you are always interested in learning a new skill or new subject matter and are interested in sit in on meetings. Get your face out there.
Present at team meetings. Volunteer to do an ice breaker or write the agenda or present quarterly data. Having a speaking role elevates people’s impression of you in their mind. Be the face of your area and make sure everyone knows it.
Recognize people for doing a great job. You might not be their boss, but you can always speak up and thank or congratulate peers and colleagues on a job well done. This is a sure fire way to be recognized yourself for being a team player, for creating a great work environment and for setting people up for future success.
Be funny. Last but not least! Use this in lieu of sucking up to people. Crack jokes and make people smile, then you don’t have to kiss their asses as much.
And this advice isn’t limited to just your work life: apply it to personal situations like volunteering, planning events or leading a group. Whether you’ve always been a go-getter or you’re just getting your groove on now, use these ideas to position yourself as a leader and get stuff done!