4 Ways You Can Lead Without the “Leader” Title

You’re here to learn about leadership. You follow this blog to learn ways to become a better leader, read the newest Patrick Lencioni book to become a better leader, and took the StrengthsFinder test for the umpteenth time to become a better leader. And for that I commend you. You should want to lead better.

But I would bet that some of you reading this don’t have the “leader” title. You aren’t the “Director” or “Manager” or whatever that title is at your organization. More of you aren’t what some of my friends and I jokingly call the “boss-boss.” You know, the ultimate boss of your team. The “President” or “Senior Pastor” or whoever is ultimately at the tippy-top of the org chart. Just because you aren’t a “leader” on the org chart doesn’t mean you can’t lead in your role, though.

Being only 24, I have yet to be “boss-boss” or even just “the boss,” but that doesn’t mean I haven’t worked at being a leader. Being a leader in today’s workspace has a lot more to do with the relationships people have with you and the trust you’re given by your superiors and peers alike. Here are four things I’ve learned earn big leadership and trust points as you continue to grow as a leader and continue to be trusted as a leader in your role:

1. Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it.

This one seems simple, but you’d be surprised how jarring this is for some people. One of the key elements of leading is being someone that people can trust. Not trust in an “I know something you don’t know” kind of way, but be someone that can be trusted to follow through. If you come through on everything you say you will, people are going to recognize it. It may not be right away, but over time you’ll become a “go-to player” when important projects, decisions, etc. come down the line. If you’re crushing it in the everyday tasks, your peers and leaders will notice and trust that you’re a person who keeps their word.

2. Live the (ideal) culture.

Part of your leader’s role is to set the tone for the organization. They work hard to come up with a mission, values, vision, whatever you want to call it, and then they implement that culture in the organization. If you want to grow as a leader, hop on board. As you lean in to and live the culture that’s being created, you’ll grow into an ambassador for the exemplary employee and teammate. Culture is created for the benefit of the brand and team, so if you lead the way in owning that culture, everyone around you will benefit and follow your lead.

3. Fill the gaps.

Part of leading is finding ways to improve your organization. That doesn’t just need to come from the top, down, though. Save your leader some stress by going ahead and filling those gaps. Don’t go around bragging about how great you are because you went above and beyond to cover a glaring hole, though. Filling gaps for the recognition isn’t leading; it’s sucking up. Lead your team by making it the best it can be. Make yourself an integral and go-to member of the team that leads the way in making the machine go.

4. Ask.

This is one of the easiest and most difficult ways to lead. By simply asking your leader what you can do to lead from your current spot, you show a lot of courage and responsibility that comes with being a leader. However, be prepared that everything you hear may not be what you want to hear. What you hear might require more effort or difficult conversation. But all of that is part of being a leader. Sometimes you’ll ask how you can grow as a leader, and you’ll find out about some blind spots that you didn’t know you had. Sometimes you’ll find out that you aren’t doing as great of a job at following through as you thought. That’s ok, though. Because you asked, you now know and can show your leadership by owning your shortcomings and starting to correct them. Leaders can’t be above reproach, and when you admit that, you begin to truly lead yourself as well as those around you.

There are plenty of other things that you can do to lead when you aren’t in charge, but these are four that I’ve tried really hard to practice in my roles. I’ve also had these things asked of me as I asked ways that I could lead from my seat, and they aren’t always easy things to do. However, if you want to grow as a leader, it’s not always easy. It requires humility, a posture of learning and the willingness to earn your stripes on the bottom of the totem pole before you can become the “boss-boss.”

Taylor Snodgrass is the Associate Programming Director at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, where he lives with his wife, Heather. He is passionate about leading others to excellence in the church and in their every day lives.

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