You don’t have to be be the person in charge in order to be a leader. Here are 5 valuable ways to lead from the middle of the pack.
I have worked for many types of managers in my rather eclectic career. Good and bad ones, memorable and forgettable ones; I can honestly say I learned something from each of them.
Yet many of the people who have influenced and taught me the most have not been the one’s ‘in charge’ at all.
By ‘in charge’ I mean the lieutenants, captains or generals who have the span of control through people and money traditionally associated with leadership.
During my days at IBM I saw many leaders at various levels in the company who had no direct line responsibility yet carried much in the way of influence as staff executives. The line/staff organizational structure – originally borrowed from military models – served well to recognize the leadership of those not ‘in charge’.
I remember one senior marketing representative at IBM who likely would not have made a good manager. Yet he had a sense for customer relationships and account management that he modeled to me that have to this day shaped the way I run my business.
Much like that favorite teacher you’ll never forget, you can probably think of people you’ve been influenced by that were never in charge in the classic sense. Yet their influence and contribution to your life, career and organization are felt to this day.
Here are five ways to lead and influence without being in charge.
The Teacher – Influences through the impartation of information, concepts and ideas. Teachers establish a foundation for future learning and the practice of learning. Teachers do not require a classroom in order to teach, rather find ways of conveying and explaining things that help grow one’s capacity to think and make decisions.
The Trainer – Influences by helping others build skill, discipline and practice. Trainers help us learn how to do the things that our knowledge tells us needs to be done. Whether it’s conducting interviews or installing a security system, training helps others learn how to do something well.
The Mentor – Influences by demonstrating their skill and judgement in real life situations. The qualification to be a mentor is this: a willingness to let someone watch you do what you do. Mentors allow others to observe them in action and are willing to explain how and why they say and do the things they do. Mentors often observe the mentee in action and provide input and feedback based on their experience. Oh that we all would have people in our lives to do this.
The Advisor – Influences through expertise, counsel and guidance. Often specialists in a particular discipline, whether inside or outside an organization, that specialization holds immense value for those who seek ways to leverage it for the benefit of others.
The Coach – Influences through the application of knowledge and by discerning the gaps in performance. In our practice we unflinchingly say that “all top professionals have a coach’. Through a blend of observation and feedback, coaching provides important perspective that we cannot get by ourselves. That is exactly why a Peyton Manning and a Tiger Woods have a coach.
What is so powerful about these five ways is that they do not have to be positions or even official roles. They don’t even have to be in a business or organizational setting, as I speak of in this one remarkable example.
Yet they can still wield great influence and value to those who are taught, trained, mentored, advised or coached by it.
They are ways you can lead even though you are not in charge.
What about you? Who were some leaders not ‘in charge’ that have influenced you?