How to lead without titles
Do leaders only lead when they are given a title or do they get the title after demonstrating their leadership abilities?
Most of the times it’s the latter, but I don’t know why we fall into the trap of believing that we can only make a difference if we have the title of a leader.
In most of the corporate hallways and around water coolers, one can hear- “Did you hear the news? Well, I would have done it differently if I was the leader…” Like we are some powerless zombies who can’t exert any influence in the grandiose corporate machinery. Duh!
Reality is much simpler (different too) and in most of the organizations, we can make a difference. Or, in the worst case, exert our influence and be the positive change-agents.
Only when we have demonstrated, beyond a shadow of doubt, that we can be trusted to bring about a change, we are given the official titles to lead.
So, what can one do to lead without having a title? It turns out a whole lot. Keeping it simple, here is a list of three things that you can do to lead without a title-
1. Adopt the Boy Scout rule
Not sure if you are aware of this simple Boy Scout rule. It goes like this- “Leave the campground cleaner than you found it.”
Throw out words like “This was done before I joined”, “We inherited the code in this manner”, “I wasn’t a part of the design decision”. No matter who created the mess; be the one who cleans it up and makes it better for the next person who is going to use it. Be it anything that is past its age or seems out of whack.
You do not need any fancy title to suggest or make improvements. You just need a mindset to not leave things to rot if you can make them better. Basically, practicing the old adage of the buck stops with me.
2. Bring your “A” game to work
Greatness is infectious. When you are committed to doing great work every single day, everyone in your team is most likely to follow in your footsteps. They’ll look up to you for guidance. They’ll look up to you as an inspiration.
According to Cal Newport’s phenomenal book, So Good That They Can’t Ignore You, great work leads to building a vast amount of career capital. More the career capital, the more influence you’ll have to bring about a change in things that make “work” possible.
Pay attention to the smallest detail – cross the ‘T’s and dot your ‘I’s. Don’t settle for Mediocrity.
3. Challenge the status quo
We are conditioned by our culture to follow the traditional lines of hierarchy and to take things on their face value. No wonder, we sometimes behave like an automaton, and take some of the things to be the gospel truth – “Things have always been done like that here”.
Unfortunately, we bring the same kind of mindset at our workplaces completely forgetting that times change, companies scale up or down, they change directions and what worked in a given context wouldn’t work in others.
Leaders with titles aren’t the only privileged lot to question things and put strategies for change. Many times they may not even be in touch with the ground realities as it may not lie in their daily purview of things.
What if we were to take that onus to challenge the status quo? Because challenging the norms or the ability to manage upwards is not dependent on titles. All it needs is inquisitiveness and willingness to speak up when something doesn’t feel alright.
Leadership, as a skill, is important for everyone at every level of an organization. It doesn’t matter whether you hold the position of a CEO or a developer. All you need to do is ask yourself: What can I do to make things better?
If you are connected with the purpose of your organization, find contentment in the work that you do, and your values are aligned with the vision of the company then I’m sure you don’t need any titles to lead.
Hope you make a difference.