Harris Fanaroff

6 ways to be a leader when you aren’t at the top of your organization

What is the definition of leadership? According to the dictionary, leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organization,” but that doesn’t really give us much. As someone that spends a lot of time reading about leadership and what makes a good leader, I am always searching for how I can be the best leader even when I am not in the C-Suite of my organization. Even if you do not manage a lot of people, there are still numerous ways that you can be a leader within your organization. Leadership to me basically means acting in a way that others want to follow, and in order to do that, you don’t necessarily need people directly reporting to you. Leadership is important because it creates a certain culture for how the people in your organization will act which therefore impacts the results and bottom line of your business. With that being said, I wanted to share six ways you can be a leader even if you aren’t at the top of your organization.

  1. Show up consistently every day

You know what you are getting when a leader shows up to work every day. They need to be consistent so that everyone who depends on them knows what they are going to get each day. No matter how good things may seem or how bad things may seem, you choose how you show up every day and others around you are watching. If you are bringing that same positive self to work, day in and day out when others are starting to lag, that’s how you can separate yourself as a leader.

2. Be someone others want to be around

We all know that one person that comes into a meeting and everyone (silently) moans because you know the energy they are going to bring into the room. Well… we all also know the person that comes in and everyone gets excited because of the energy they are going to bring or the helpful thoughts and ideas they will bring to the meeting. How do you make yourself that person each and every time you walk into a room? If you are leading the meeting, what are you doing to make things different and exciting in this meeting? Good leaders are people that make things happen, change things up, and make you energized to be around.

3. Treat others how you want to be treated

It’s so basic but good leaders don’t treat other people at their organization a certain way because of their title or their age. Good leaders treat people how they’d want to be treated no matter who it is. Nothing drives me crazier than the recently promoted person talking down to a person in the role they used to be in. People don’t care what your title is, but they care how you treat them. Next time you’re thinking about sending that frustrated email to the new inside sales rep at your company, it’s probably a good reminder to think about how you’d feel getting that email five years ago when you were in a similar role. Similarly, who are the people at your organization that seem to work in a thankless job, and nobody ever congratulates them on the amazing work they do? Leaders seek out these people and find ways to build connections and thank them for the work that they do. Don’t just build relationships up the organization, think about how you can build relationships throughout the organization.

4. Go out of your way to help others

You often hear about selfless leaders or servant leaders, and for good reason, you never hear about selfish leaders. Leaders go out of their way to make things easier for others in the company whether they are above them or below them. How can you use your talents and skills to help others in the firm? Did someone on your team recently help you a lot with a project? How can you thank them and give them recognition in a way that highlights their success? The best leaders do things to highlight others without asking for anything in return.

5. Take on firm-wide initiatives

What are some of the major areas of focus for your executive team? Where are they spending their time? Leaders don’t wait to be asked to help with major issues, but rather figure out a way to input their skills into those big initiatives. For example, if your organization has trouble onboarding new staff, how can you step in as a mentor for the new staff and make sure they are having a smooth transition? Make yourself an asset that helps move the business along in ways that have a greater impact than your specific job function.

6. Be willing to listen and be okay with being wrong

Leaders needs to be good listeners and can’t just give orders all the time. If you are bringing an idea to the table or sharing your idea during a meeting, are you listening to other viewpoints? We tend to write off other ideas as not as good as ours, but good leaders listen to all viewpoints before coming up with their final decision. There is a true benefit to diversity of thought and opinion, and the best leaders do this in order to come up with their strategies. Good leaders admit when they thought something, but then had their view changed by someone with a strong argument. Nobody is right all the time and in order to be a good leader, you must be willing to gather information and listen to others within your organization.