employees performing speech to improve leadership skills

Ways to Lead When You are Not the Boss

Published on 5 Jun 2015 by Stuart Harris

‘Leader’ is both a quality and a title. Some are in possession of the title without the quality and others, perhaps you, are in possession of the quality but not the title. This does not mean you have to suppress your natural leadership instincts nor does it mean you have to leave your organization and apply only for leadership positions. All leaders need to experience being subordinate in order to lead with greater empathy and emotional intelligence. Instead, use your leadership qualities to lead your team to success and work your way up the corporate ladder. Here are the 8 ways to lead when you are not the boss without treading on toes or causing damage to your career.

1. Take responsibility

A leader does not point the finger of blame but takes all criticism and reworks it into a lesson. Take responsibility for both praise and criticism and never openly criticize your peers. If you are having particular trouble with another staff member address them one-on-one before taking it to management.

2. Tackle the hardest problems

Leaders take on the tasks that no one else wants to approach. Whether it is because they are time consuming or thankless, a willingness to volunteer yourself for tough roles shows that you have an impeccable work ethic and care for the company. As the only willing recipient of the task you have more scope to take risks, politely challenge the current processes and develop relationships with those in charge. Also if you do end up in a position of power, no one will feel you received your title unfairly as they know how hard you worked to get there.

3. Have a vision of the big picture

Whatever task you or your team are working on, consider how it fits into the big picture plan for your company. If it does not seem to fit the wider goals or is not making sense, bring it up with your leader; propose ways to do it better. Alternatively, if it is important in the big picture of your company do it to the best of your ability and make sure that the rest of your team are working up to your standards.

4. Lead by acknowledging others

quote you have so much to be thankful for

What’s the best way to make others work for you without any financial incentive? Acknowledge their good work! You can do this no matter what position you are in, above, below or equal. Be genuine and candid when giving praise or acknowledgement, tailor it to the particular person and make it count. Valuing and acknowledging your staff is perhaps the most important quality of a good leader.

5. Make others want to be around you

If you plan on being a leader you have to be excessively pleasant and exude positivity at all times. You have to be the kind of person someone wants to get stuck in the elevator with because you will make his or her day infinitely better. Listen to the problems of your peers, be kind, humorous and easygoing. The best leaders are emotionally intelligent. Show how intelligent you really are.

6. Take interest in things that are happening beyond your role

Whether you are in HR or accounting, make sure you are aware of what is happening in the company beyond your sphere of influence. If your company sells a product, make sure you know all the latest information in the supply-chain management. If you want to lead it is better to know these things early on and see how they are evolving. It also means that you can have a conversation with nearly everyone in your company.

7. Mentor others in your particular skills

light bulbs developing a value

Great leaders create other leaders. Leaders do not hoard knowledge they share it freely. If you have a particular skill which will benefit the rest of your team then team up with your HR mentoring programs to teach others. If you do not have such programs then you can even do lunchtime mentoring sessions. Google have regular employee-to-employee trainings on subjects as diverse as mountain climbing to kickboxing to having salary conversations with managers. While you may have trouble convincing your teammates to listen to your talk on bird watching for their lunch hour, a relevant skill could be well appreciated. If a lunchtime session sounds too formal, offer your colleagues individual trainings to get them up to speed and request they train you in whatever field they have more expertise in for a fair trade.

8. Ask your boss for expectations

Ask your boss what they want to see from you or what you could do to make their job easier. Don’t simply go there for attention or for validation and be prepared for a negative answer. If the answer is too broad, ask for specifics and approach your boss again in 6 months asking if you are working to the expectations. If you are, then ask what else you could be doing to make your their job easier again. Not only are you getting a ‘free’ performance review every 6 months, you are showing initiative and desire to be the best worker you can be.

Being a leader is not a position, it's a quality

You can lead your team to victory without ever officially being the leader by demonstrating an unrelenting work ethic, cheery disposition and constantly acknowledging the work of your colleagues. Leaders should be hard working, cheery and believe in the work of their employees, it is essential to their success. Be the type of leader you wish to have and you might just become it one day.

Stuart Harris

Co-Founder and Managing Director at Team Building Asia

Stuart Harris has built Team Building Asia into Asia's most prestigious and effective team building company.

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