Working in a sales organization as I do, I’ve had the chance to observe some great leaders. These are people who demonstrate President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s statement: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” The thing I love about this quote is that it says nothing about hierarchy. Whether they are at the bottom of the totem pole, at the top, or somewhere in between, a true leader can lead from where they are by helping others understand what’s in it for them and together creating a shared goal.
Leading from where you are can be a great career strategy. It can lead to recognition, fast-track career advancement and plum assignments, for sure – but more importantly it can allow you to have a meaningful impact on others for the better.
Most people are surprised to think that they can be leaders no matter where they sit in an organization. They may have a great idea for improvement or change, but make excuses for not acting because they don’t have the authority, or it’s not their job. But that’s just wrong-heading thinking. You have power you haven’t even imagined, if only you remember that you can lead from where you are.
Here are some strategies that will help you lead from wherever you are:
- If you see something that is crying to be done, and nobody is doing it, adopt it and make it your own.
- Got ideas? Great! Before making suggestions, flesh them out and make sure you’ve considered various outcomes. Share your ideas with trusted colleagues to identify gaps or flaws in your thinking. Asking for input will help you gather supporters.
- Be a student of your field and share what you learn with others up and down the organization. See a great article – share it! Read an important book – pass it along. Become a content expert others can turn to.
- Find people who are happy to answer questions and cultivate relationships with them. They will teach you a lot and what you learn will help you recognize opportunities for growth and change.
Fears of rocking the boat, or being branded a “loose cannon” are natural – try to set them aside. In fact, be prepared to be wrong or get your hand slapped. It’s bound to happen because a leader takes risks. You’ll survive!