Leadership without Title
title is unnecessary to lead. This is an unpopular opinion in the business world. Most organizations seem to be all about titles. CEO, vice president, director, manager... The list goes on and on. Entry-level employees dream of earning an office with walls, a sign on their door, or prestigious text on their business card.
In my years navigating the corporate scene, I’ve noticed that titles skew the true meaning of leadership. Some people seek out leadership positions, and others lead through their natural ability to take charge of a challenging situation. Regardless of how they attained a position of authority, leaders must prove that they are worthy of being followed. Achieving this goes far beyond any title. In fact, I believe worthy leadership can be achieved no title attached.
You can become a leader regardless of your title or lack thereof. Here’s how:
Produce results; Maintain humility
Nobody likes the kid who comes in first and loudly sings his own praises. When the game is over, the results speak for themselves. This childhood lesson applies directly to the office. You won’t “win” every single time, and that’s okay. Each time you pitch an idea, be proud that you left it all in the conference room. If you find yourself on top, acknowledge you shouldn’t be celebrating on your own. Just as that kid had a team supporting his success, I guarantee others helped you develop that “first place” idea to fruition. A true leader approaches large and small triumphs with a spirit of humility.
Seek mutual support
Realizing you aren’t the expert on every subject is a sign of maturity. I used to put immeasurable pressure on myself to do everything on my own. Quickly, life forced me to learn I could (and had to) depend on people. Sometimes my way is the best way, but certainly not always. There is a time to offer insight and a time to receive it. A mutually supportive team functions both ways. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses that you and the individuals surrounding you possess is important. The ability to capitalize on everyone’s strengths AND assist their weaknesses is the mark of great leadership.
Be open to new ideas
Along with a spirit of humility, leaders must respect everyone in every sense of the word. Considering ideas with even weight regardless of a person’s title is the sole way for an organization to improve. Ideas can come from anywhere across an organization. Everyone has different life and professional experiences that form their opinions and suggestions. An innovative mindset allows leaders to listen to diverse perspectives and see where they offer valuable vision.
Don’t stop learning
Many people view learning as an act to be completed within a rigid environment. They don’t allow themselves to see most education comes from experience. Life is a continual trial and error process and when you realize this, you find out that you learn something new every day. When I read, that is a type of formal education; however, real wisdom only comes after testing what I read and seeing how it is proven. When you allow yourself to see how performance and learning go hand in hand, you will grow into a person worthy of leadership.
Protect values and integrity
Foundationally, integrity means doing the right thing regardless of who is going to find out. Before executing what you are asked to do, you must ask yourself if it is in line with your values. If the task at hand compromises the convictions you hold, it isn’t worth doing. At the end of the day, every person should have a clear conscience knowing their daily interactions contractually, financially and relationally align with their beliefs. A strong leader goes beyond that. He/she has the courage to admit and take action when they mess up.
The bottom line is people follow character.
Given the choice, I would gladly choose to work with an individual who leads not by the walls around their office, sign on their door, or prestigious text on their business card, but by their actions.
You can be a leader; you don’t need a title to do it. Don’t wait.