In a recent conversation with a colleague, I was reminded of how many of us who have been at Interstates for a number of years, might forget to coach new employees on some of the basics. In that conversation, it came out that someone new to the team felt like they didn’t have an opportunity to lead. They believed they couldn’t be a leader because they didn’t have any direct reports. This isn’t a big news flash or something that has just been discovered, but leadership isn’t about title or direct reports: it’s about influence.
Whether you're just starting your career or aren’t where you expected to be, don’t limit your influence because you don’t have the title of manager, or you don’t have any direct reports. You can have a huge influence, which ironically will probably get you the title of manager and direct reports. If you are asking, “How can I have influence?”, here are a couple of suggestions, even though they may seem counter-intuitive.
- Listen more than talk. People are willing to follow if they believe that they have been heard and that you care about them.
- Ask more questions than telling people what to do. Often people know the answer to their own question, but it is through the dialog and collaboration that they gain the confidence and clarity needed to move forward.
- Be humble and shelve your ego. How you present your point of view may be more important than the view you present.
- Give credit where credit is due. When working on a team, be sure the team gets credit for ideas and success rather than being self-promoting.
- Help others be successful. If you can help others be successful, most often they will try to help you be successful.
All of the items mentioned above have nothing to do with a position title or direct reports and yet, they will help you gain influence, which ultimately is leadership. For more on this topic, I would highly recommend a past blog post, But I'm Not a Leader.
Jack Woelber, Interstates Control Systems, Inc. President