5 Ways to be a Leader Even if You’re Not the Boss

“Leadership is a choice. It’s not a rank.”

Simon Sinek

Have you ever questioned how you can be a leader if you’re not the boss? This is something I grappled with early in my career. I never saw myself as a leader unless I was “in charge of people” However, I have become older and wiser. Being the boss doesn’t mean you’re a leader. Leadership exists at every level and you can be a leader regardless of your role in the hierarchy. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Clarify your values. Do some self-reflection, put a name to your values and live by them. Leadership starts with being true to yourself. Who are you and what do you believe? What is your bottom line? My at-work book club finished reading Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. Many of us enjoyed the values clarification exercise. Try doing the exercise individually and then discuss with a friend. I’ve narrowed my top two values to curiosity and tenacity; what are yours?
  2. Share your perspective. Your ideas matter! You can be a leader by contributing your thoughts on projects even if you don’t feel you have all the requirements to participate (eg. experience, skill, knowledge, etc). Diverse opinions and perspectives create better overall decisions.
  3. Ask for what you need. I value when my staff and colleagues tell me what they need to be successful. Success ranges from discussions on professional goals to tactical support required for projects. As a leader (not necessarily always a boss!) I want to help those around me succeed and rely on these conversations.
  4. Express genuine thanks. It’s amazing how far small gestures of gratitude can go. Try giving someone a genuine thank you and see how it feels.
  5. Own your mistakes. I have respect for people who are willing to admit they did something wrong and learn from it rather than placing blame. Even though this can feel scary and intimidating it actually helps build trust.

What other ways can you be a leader?

Be Brave!


Recommended resources for embracing leadership from any position:

The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

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