Leaders don’t need a title to lead

December 12, 2009 at 4:41 pm 1 comment

Leaders don’t need to be appointed to lead. Leaders lead. Leaders take initiative. Leaders galvanize people around an action and convince them to go outside of their comfort zone to accomplish what needs to be done. As Tony Romo, the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboy said recently, “Leadership is doing what has to be done.”

I’m writing this blog because I have seen and heard too many people complain that they have not been given a position of leadership or are waiting for some appointment to a leadership position. In any groups formed by humans, there is likely to be imperfection and problems that beg to be corrected. Whether it is a church, a workplace, civil organization or society at large, these problems don’t require someone bestowed with a title of leader to start tackling them.

For those of us who are members or have been members of a church, we know the problem too well. A lot of church members complain that it is always the same people who get appointed and wonder how the church could not recognize their leadership skills. Really? I have yet to be a part of a church where there was enough done to help those who don’t have a job, visit those who are sick, help single mothers with parenting or help new members integrate in the church. There’s always more work to be done like evangelism or  start a small group home church (which is proven to be an effective way for churches to grow based on what I’ve heard).

Of all possible civic organizations or groups in human society, there is no place that needs leadership more than the workplace. But somehow most people think they need to be given a title of managers, supervisors or vice-president to get things done. I have yet to meet a manager or vice-president who when presented with an idea that will affect his or her bottom line will say, “I am sorry John Doe, but because you’re not a fellow manager or vice-president I can’t follow your ideas.” Well, maybe there are some poor managers who have too much ego to accept help, but based on my experience I guarantee that if you’re the type of person who is ready to seek solutions when problems arise, you will a) be heard by other managers and b) always find a new work environment where you will be heard.

I once heard that leadership positions are the hardest to fill. I guess that’s why there are executive search firms charging on average 25% of first year total compensation to fill these positions. At the same time, there are many people sometimes in the very workplace where leadership positions are being recruited for who are waiting impatiently to be appointed to these positions.
A simple advice that has served me well is to start doing the job you want to be promoted to while you are in your current position. More specifically, find out what’s most important to your boss or the company and offer to help. In my previous employment prior to founding SciMetrika, LLC, before becoming a manager I took the following initiatives: a) organized brown bag luncheons where employees presented on a technical/scientific topic, b) I pushed the company toward the adoption of a nascent technology at the time called SAS IntrNet used to perform complex data analysis and return the results in real-time and c) I offered my help with writing proposals. For my previous employer (formerly Analytical Sciences, Inc., then Constella Group, and now a part of SRA), writing winning proposals is key to success because they translate directly into more revenues. Was I a good proposal writer right from the get-go? No. It probably took me more time than others to write my sections in a proposal. But I had no intentions of letting “just not being good at something that was key to my employer” stand in my way. Over time, I became good enough at proposal writing to write entire sections and then entire small proposals by myself with a cursory review by my supervisor before submission.

To finish, I offer some suggestions for those who would like to advance in the workplace:
• If you want to become a leader, share your goal with your supervisor. Ask specifically: what would it take for me to get there? What weaknesses do I need to work on?
• Take actions: Is there something that’s not being done well in your company? Fix it or offer to help to fix it.
• When you have a problem or need to bring a problem to your supervisor(s), be prepared to have a solution or several alternatives to present to choose from, advantages and disadvantages of each.
• When someone gives you a solution, don’t just take the solution. Ask yourself how did he or she come up with that solution? Try to find patterns in how your boss or other superiors find approaches to solutions. Over time, you will know how you’re your boss would approach a problem so that you won’t need to ask him or her for help.
• Be a good or better clone of your boss: When your boss assigns you a task, remember that you he or she is giving you something he would have done himself or herself if there was sufficient time in the day. Your goal should be to complete the task as well as your boss and better if you can.
• Be a consensus builder in group meetings. It is my experience that leaders or those who are ready for leaderships are the ones that says things such as “Guys are we saying the same thing here?” or “Is there more than one way to do this?” or “All the ideas on the table are good ones, and how do we choose the one with the minimal risk?”
• Lead by example: Don’t pass the buck around. If there is something that needs to be done and others are unwilling to tackle it, gladly take on the tasks others are refusing.
• Don’t compete with your boss: Genuinely and selfishly, help him or her get better. Your boss is like a client; your job is to make him or her look good.
• Does your boss have too much on his or her plate? Offer to take on some of his or her tasks to lighten the load.
• Associate yourselves with those who are successful in your company. Learn what makes or has made them successful.

If you’re doing all these things and it doesn’t seem that you will be moved into a leadership position anytime soon, it may be time for you to look for another job.

Entry filed under: Leadership. Tags: , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Dieuseul Jonas Orelien  |  December 13, 2009 at 5:25 am

    Very informative.I think that sometimes the expression “turn the other cheek”is taken too literally when in fact it should instead be understood “as going the extra mile”, being proactive.



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