In a recent blog post, I discussed the gap that exists between management and leadership. Though we often associate leadership with positional authority, that fact is there must be leaders at every level of an organization for it to be effective. So how can we effectively lead from within an organization when we are not at the most senior level. There are many ways to do this, but here are three keys.
1. Use Inclusive language
You can always tell the leaders from the followers by their use of “we” and “they”. Followers will often refer to “they” as some type of outside force beyond their control. Leaders use “we”. It shows commitment and understanding – an ability to get up to the 10,000 foot level and look down on the situation. As leaders, we have to do our best to see situations from outside of ourselves. This doesn’t me you have to agree with everything. Followers might say, “they need to do better at managing the purchasing department”, while leaders might say, “we can do better in purchasing, from the top down”. It may not help you commiserate with your colleagues, but it will help you raise your leadership level.
2. Be Ready
As a leader, you are surely going to have ideas, opinions, and projects that you feel need to get tackled. Your goal is to be ready. There is going to come a time at some point where your leaders will take notice of your work. You need to have those opinions ready, those ideas organized, and those projects prepared. Little will hurt you more than being ill prepared when the spotlight falls on you. Leaders are always preparing – always thinking ahead. You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to be prepared.
3. Do the Work
The fact is, the mantra “hard work pays off” is absolutely true. There is no fancy spin here – no earth shattering reveal of some new and amazing concept. When it comes down to it, leaders get things done. Sure, there may be some people that have achieved positional power without doing much, but true leaders work hard and accomplish a lot. If you want to be a leader no matter what your job title, you have to be the guy that comes early, stays late, and out works everyone else. And don’t buy into that “I work smarter, not harder” stuff. Of course it is wise to work smart when you can, but sometimes things just take a little old fashioned hard work. You can’t be a leader if you are just mediocre at what you do, not matter what it is. Want to be a leader? Then put in the work.