When you hear the word leader, what do you think of? For most people, they think of someone with power, authority, and position – one of the select few at the top of an organization. However, nothing could be further from the truth!
Just because someone has the title, doesn’t necessarily mean they are leading and have influence with their people. In reality, someone on their team could have more followers than they do.
As George Ambler states in his article, Leadership is Not Title or Position, “Position, title, and authority are often confused with leadership.”(1) Position and authority give me one thing as a leader – the potential to lead. That’s it!
You and I both don’t need a title. Every day, we can identify examples of people who, despite power and position, fail to lead effectively. On the contrary, we can also identify examples of people who have no power or authority at all, yet find a way to create a movement, gain influence, and lead with excellence.
One of the major teaching points here is the simple fact that in leadership, we can’t do it alone. It takes all of us regardless of position; it takes all of us to create positive change; it takes all of us to build a movement. Leadership happens when people give us permission to influence their lives – that point at which we move from having ascribed authority based on title to earned authority based on mutual trust and respect.(2)
Whether we’re leading down the organizational chart, up to our supervisor(s), or across to our peers, every single one of us has extraordinary power to make a positive difference in the lives of others. And that’s empowering!
So, for the remainder of this post, let’s consider those we lead who may not have “the title” yet. What can we do to help them grow? What can we do to nurture them along their path of leadership success, whatever that may look like for them?
Here are six things to consider:(3)
- Help them cultivate a great mindset – On any given day, many things can go wrong. As their leader, it’s our responsibility to help them stay above it.
- Teach them to be supportive of others consistently – Regardless of position in our organization, each of us should strive to have the attitude, “What can I do for you?” Unfortunately, there have been times throughout my career when I didn’t feel I had the full support of those I reported to, and that was disheartening.
- Teach them to be flexible – As all of us know, the one constant thing in most organizations is change. The more agile and flexible we become, the better off we will be.
- Teach them accountability – When people know we are accountable, it gives us credibility and ultimately breeds respect and mutual trust.
- Inspire them to be creative – At the end of the day, what process(es) could be improved? What practice(s) tweaked? Just because they’ve been doing it “this way” or “that way” forever, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the “best way.”
- Set an example by giving away credit – Never take credit when it isn’t yours to take. This not only leads to distrust, but it also decreases the likelihood that they will perform at this level in the future, or be willing to continue to share their best ideas.
In conclusion, as Lolly Daskal explains, “The way to stand out is to stand together, to acknowledge others for their contribution, and give credit where credit is due. The way to be striking is to shine the light on others.”(3)
“All the effective leaders I have encountered – both those I worked with and those I merely watched – knew four simple things: a leader is someone who has followers; popularity is not leadership, results are; leaders are highly visible, they set examples; leadership is not rank, privilege, titles or money, it is responsibility.” – Peter Drucker
In light of the six things I mentioned above to help those with no authority lead well, which one are you choosing to focus on and why? Please comment below. I look forward to reading your leadership insights and interacting with you.
Nathan R Mitchell is America’s Leading Empowerment Coach. In 2010, in an effort to fulfill his purpose of empowering leaders to reach their potential, he founded the leadership development company, Clutch Consulting. Nathan is also a Certified Speaker, Trainer, and Coach with The John Maxwell Team. Originally from Springfield Missouri, he earned his B.S. Degree in Management and an MBA from Missouri State University. He lives near Tulsa Oklahoma with his wife and children.
1. Ambler, George. “Leadership Is Not Title or Position.” George Ambler, 2 Apr. 2017, www.georgeambler.com/leadership-is-not-title-or-position/.
2. “Leading without Authority – Working without a Title.” Leadership Notes, 17 June 2016, leaders.blog/leading-without-authority/.
3. Daskal, Lolly. “6 Impressive Ways to Lead Without the Title.” Inc.com, Inc., 14 May 2018, www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/6-impressive-ways-to-lead-without-title.html.