Career Advancement, Featured

6 ways to be a leader when it’s not part of your job title

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds, Creative Commons/Flickr

Are you being underused in your current position? Do you feel you could create a positive change in your organization if only your title had “Manager” or “Director” in it?

It’s easy to think that we can truly lead once our jobs change, but leadership doesn’t just mean having a fancy title and lots of supervisees. Leaders stand out not only for their individual contributions, but also for their ability to inspire others, to create a sense of community, and to help organizations weather difficult storms.

Therefore, opportunities to lead are everywhere, and can be taken advantage of from any part of an organization. Consider these six ways you can have a strong impact on your organization, no matter your title.

1. Make connections

Despite the best intentions, organizations often find themselves stymied by information silos. Even if everyone is doing stellar work, if people aren’t communicating between departments or projects, there can be mistakes, duplicated effort, and missed opportunities. One thing anyone can do is play close attention to different areas of the organization, and make important connections.

2. Allow others to shine

Leadership often means making others look good. This could be recognizing other people’s talents and making good use of them, sharing the credit for successes, or being inclusive of people who are often overlooked. Give compliments freely, and offer constructive criticism in a kind way when it will benefit someone else.

3. Improve a system or process

When you’re down in the trenches, you’re highly qualified to evaluate the systems and processes that you use every day. If your superiors don’t have the daily hands-on experience that you have, they may not recognize opportunities to streamline. Do you have ideas for how to automate aspects of your work? Have you noticed redundancies in your workflow? Have you witnessed duplicate efforts in different departments? You might be the source of a revolutionary idea in your organization.

4. Be a team player

Cheerfully volunteer to do work outside of your job description, and take on your share of the grunt work. Be generous with ideas and information, rather than keeping them to yourself. This is a surefire way to become your team’s MVP.

5. Lead by example

Simply having a positive attitude can have a huge effect on morale. Don’t believe it? Just consider how much one person’s negative attitude can derail a project or create a divisive atmosphere. Demonstrate enthusiasm (it’s contagious!), refrain from complaining, and above all, avoid office gossip. These might seem like instructions for being a nice person, but they’re also a recipe for strong leadership.

6. Develop rare expertise

Is your organization lacking certain expertise—perhaps knowledge of a certain software program, a new training technique, or the latest research on community organizing? You can make yourself invaluable by taking on the task of becoming the organization’s go-to expert in an important but overlooked area.

Why bother?

Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking, “Sure, I could spend time and energy doing all of the above. But what’s the point if my leadership isn’t going to be recognized?”

Of course, you’re probably motivated largely by a desire to make an impact on the organization you work in and on the constituencies you serve, but you may also have legitimate real world concerns and an understandable desire to move up in the ranks. So here’s a bonus tip: Tell your manager what you’re working on! Leveraging your experiences and successes, have a conversation with your manager about formally taking on more responsibilities at work or a promotion.

Additionally, an excellent benefit to gaining leadership experiences like those above is the opportunity to turn those experiences into talking points for future job interviews. Potential employers will be impressed with your initiative and commitment to the greater good.

How have you found ways to be a leader within your organization? Share in the comments.

About Hannah Kane

Scrum Master at Idealist.org