Making an impact: How to be a leader without the title
We can easily recognise some leaders in the workplace, especially when they have words like Director, Executive, Officer or Manager in their job titles. We know these people are the head honchos, they make the decisions and generally, what they say, goes.
Then there are the leaders in the workplace who are just as important, but they may not be as easily recognisable – the leaders without the leader title, or ‘informal leaders’. They lead by example, showcase initiative, foster a positive work environment and can take charge in a crisis. These people are just as important as the official leaders of a workplace, so if you’re looking to move up the leadership ladder, but have no experience in a leadership position, becoming an informal leader is a great way to do it.
So, how do you become an informal leader? Here are our top tips to get colleagues and managers to see you as a leader.
Keep your eye out for opportunities where you can contribute to the business beyond what you currently do. This can include volunteering for additional work outside of your remit, coming to your manager or team with an out of the box idea for a client or your next big project or making suggestions for where things can improve, such as client communication or internal processes. This initiative will be remembered by others in the business and could open up to other leadership opportunities – like leading the next big client project.
It’s not enough to just have great relationships with your team, you need to network and develop relationships with a variety of people across the business. It’ll help you understand the different perspectives and goals of the other arms of the business, enable you to collaborate effectively with other teams and put you front of mind the next time someone needs the type of support that you offer.
Say it with us: “I will use my learning and development budget”. It happens to the best of us – we have such great intentions to do training, but work usually gets in the way. To be a good leader, you need to be continually learning and developing – whether that’s learning the latest tech to help you excel in your role or doing more soft skill development, like a conflict management or leadership course. Plus, you’ll be leading by example and encouraging others to use their L&D budget too!
Offer guidance and mentorship
You don’t need to be a mentor in an official capacity (although we’re not stopping you if that’s what you want to do – check out our article about the skills and traits you need to be a mentor), but be conscious of where you can share your expertise and knowledge with others. When others ask for help, give them the guidance and assistance they need to solve their problem. You’ll gain a reputation as someone who is approachable, helpful and the go-to person in these situations.
Volunteer to lead or assist with informal workplace initiatives
Not specifically related to your work, these initiatives are to help build knowledge within the team or improve the workplace culture. These may take a bit more of your time, but a little bit of extra effort goes a long way. Consider helping the HR team with a team building event, being part of a sustainability working group or volunteering to lead a knowledge sharing session.
We’ve already discussed giving support and guidance in terms of sharing knowledge and skills. But it is just as important to give emotional support when your colleagues need it. Good leaders care about their team’s emotional welfare, not just their work output. Make a real difference for your co-workers – show compassion and empathy to create a comfortable environment where they feel valued and emotionally supported by you.
Despite not being in an official leadership position, you can still be a leader and have a real positive impact on your co-workers and workplace. Embrace the leadership opportunities you’re presented with – you never know what will happen down the track if you just say, “yes”.
Looking for a new creative / marketing / digital / PR position that involves leadership? Get in touch today at firstname.lastname@example.org.