What they’ve learnt: Leadership without the title

Working with teams around the world and coaching clients for over three years now, many of them spark great article ideas as a result of the feedback and learning they give me. So, we’re starting a new series entitled ‘What they’ve learnt’.

This week: a client discovered, through our leadership training, that he was able to “lead a team without the title.” We’ve spent some time exploring this topic:

Unfortunately, too many of us have had an experience of working with a bad leader. As sad as it may be, not all leaders who have a fancy title on their desk are necessarily good at the job they’ve been given – it’s true for all jobs. The great news is that no one needs a title to be a leader. Of course, the title can bring recognition and better pay and it might make it clearer for team members to understand who they are reporting to but leadership is not limited to those who have a title.

Can I lead if I am not a manager?

It can be hard to see beyond the titles and to know how you can make your mark when you’re not at the ‘top’. The great news is that you can be in a position to lead, even if you’re not in a leadership position.

It’s a little like when you sit through the safety talk on an aeroplane. You are told, in the event of an emergency, to put your oxygen mask on before you help others. By putting on that oxygen mask, even though you haven’t trained as a flight attendant, you are now in a position to help those around you. The same thing often happens in a workplace environment – there are plenty of opportunities every day when you are in a position to help others, despite not having the official leadership title.

“I learnt through working with Craig I can be a leader without being a leader. I can lead a team without the title! It’s not about your title – of course, the title is great sometimes, because the pay rise comes with it, but it’s not necessary for being a leader,” explained T.S

The fact of the matter is that powerful leadership doesn’t just come from thin air. Perhaps Shakespeare was right and some people really are “born great” but most of us have to build leadership skills over time. When we look at leadership skills as something that only those with a title have, what we’re really doing is diminishing the opportunities that everyone has at all levels of the organisation. The sought after titles are usually given to those who display leadership qualities long before the prospect of receiving a title was ever on the table.

So, what are those qualities?

  • Listening – Having the ability to listen to the needs of others is a mark of a great leader, title or not.
  • Helping others – Not only should you be helping others when they need assistance but you should be always looking to help others achieve their best.
  • Being self-aware – Know your strengths and your weaknesses so that you can then use your attributes to help others when they need help in an area that you excel in.
  • Backing yourself – Knowing your attributes is one part of the story but being confident in your abilities means that others will be confident in you too.

Wherever you are at in your organisation, official leader or not, there is always a time to step up and display leadership qualities. T.S agrees:

“There’s this misconception that if you take a leadership course you’ll immediately become a super leader – but that’s not the point of a leadership course. I realised it was about my  interactions with other people. Simple as that. Craig helped me work on my self-awareness and social-awareness.

“More than anything Craig has taught me how to put myself into other people’s shoes. Poor performance doesn’t always mean that someone is incompetent! There are other issues that could be going on and it takes a leader with empathy to sort through incompetency and personal issues and use empathy to tackle each of them.

It’s about getting to the root of the problem. Craig has taught me how to be concise in my speech and in my thoughts – I often speak without thinking about the consequences of my words and Craig has taught me how to address that.”

What T.S experienced – and described above – was about working on his leadership skills of listening, helping others, being self-aware and trusting or backing himself. All this is necessary for building credibility. Leaders don’t always have all the answers but if you build your credibility, people come to you for advice and you will become a  trusted leader.

If you’re ready to use your leadership skills in your current role, People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Our online leadership training videos start from $99 for a year’s access, with new video training added each quarter. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.