Whats one thing you don’t need to be a leader? Written permission from your company.
Traditional hierarchy leadership models serve an important purpose; they clearly identify managers and create a ranking system for decision making. What a hierarchy leadership model will not do, however, is determine who the true leaders are. This post is for those who wish to expand their impact and influence, but feel stick in role or defined set of responsibilities.
I remember learning the principles of organic leadership the hard way. Early in my support career I was awarded the designation of “team lead.” At first I thought it was an official position that carried with it authority and power; I couldn’t have been more wrong! While the “position” was completely unofficial, the responsibilities and expectations of the role were very real. I had to find ways to lead my peers on common ground. The year that followed was one of the most frustrating, yet beneficial, periods of growth I’ve experienced in my professional career. If you’re waiting for a promotion to start demonstrating your leadership caliber, don’t! You can begin establishing yourself as an organic leader at any time. Learning early on to lead without hiding behind a title has made me a far more effective manager today.
Here are seven ways to become an organic leader regardless of your “official” role:
1) Relationships – This is first and will always be first. If you do not sincerely care about the people you work with, you cannot lead them. You must earn the right to lead the people around you through authenticity and example.
2) Start a Toastmasters Club – Toastmasters provides an outstanding opportunity to develop leadership traits and practice them in a safe environment. You will be amazed at the correlation of becoming a better communicator and becoming a better leader. There’s bound to be a club near you, and if there’s not, start one.
3) Become a Mentor – Help a newer peer on your team. Not only will it help you to learn through the process of teaching, but it will send a powerful and positive message to everyone around you.
4) Have a Mentor – There will not always be someone in your organization available to challenge you. Don’t let that be a stumbling block to your advancement! Find out who the thought leaders are in your community and engage with them.
5) Pursue Knowledge – In the support world there are so many great certifications that are relatively inexpensive…HDI, Service Strategies, ITIL, Lean / Six Sigma Green Belt, Microsoft…the list goes on. Knowledge is a powerful form of leadership currency, and those that take initiative to pursue it have a significant advantage.
6) Participate in a Local Technology Group – Don’t stop with a certification; be a part of the community around you. The best way to raise the bar is to surround yourself with others who are in the next stage. Here in Nashville we have a local “HDI” chapter. Taking a leadership role in this community has been instrumental in my development.
7) Carve Out at Least an Hour a Week for “Big Picture Time” – Generally entry level employees are not expected to think past the front line. Allow yourself to think beyond your current role and earn a reputation as a problem solver. If you are taking support calls, think about how you can not only make those calls fantastic, but also how you can eliminate them altogether. It takes time and effort to learn how to think strategically. Those who rise to this challenge will set themselves apart in wonderful ways.
Taking these steps will allow you to break the bonds of any title and excel as an organic leader. With a bit of patience, your leadership team is sure to recognize the transformation and provide you with exciting new opportunities!