5 Ways to Lead Even if You’re Not an Executive
Here’s how you can effect change in your organization even when you’re not in charge
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We are always making a choice, no matter what. Not only is every action you take a choice, not doing something is also a choice. I love this quote from Stephen Covey: "Leadership is a choice, not a position."
No matter your role--whether you're a CEO or an intern--you have the choice every day to be a leader. Especially if you're working in a startup, there are countless opportunities to step up and make a 10X impact.
We all desperately want to have an impact. I believe subconsciously we are always thinking of how we can make a difference at work, for our family and friends, for our customers, and impact billions of other people on our planet.
But ultimately, it comes down to making a choice to be a leader for yourself.
Thomas Watson, former Chairman and CEO of IBM said, "Nothing so conclusively proves a man's ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself."
As a co-founder of my startup, Terminus, I know that every day will be filled with tough choices. One of the most important choices I can make is to have a positive impact on our entire company, for every "Terminator" at Terminus.
A choice we recently made as an executive team was to start a leadership speaker series. Every Tuesday, our entire company convenes for an "All-Hands" lunch meeting. To kick off our new speaker series, we hosted Clay Scroggins in our office.
Clay recently published How to Lead When You're Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority. One of my favorite quotes from his book and presentation is:
"There is a myth in leadership that says, 'Until I am in charge, I cannot lead. When I am in charge, then I will lead.' Too often, we mistake our organizational positions with our leadership abilities. However, if leadership is influence, all of us have influence."
A part of Clay's thesis breaks the myth that a person must be in charge in order to lead. For all the individual contributors, regardless of title, there's always a choice to be a leader. Influence is power.
Here are five ways to lead in your organization, even if you're not an executive:
1. Be a Sales Leader
For all the account executives and salespeople, you have a choice to leave a lasting impression. You want your prospects and opportunities to know that you care about your customers' problems more than the products you're commissioned to sell. Choosing to be authentic will help elevate you as a sales leader.
2. Become a Customer Hero
To folks on the front lines in client services and customer success, you have a choice to empathize with the pain your customers may be experiencing with your product or service. Going the extra mile to find a solution--and over-communicating along the way--is a daunting task, but the rewards are great.
3. Build Amazing Solutions
As a developer or software engineer, you have a choice to use that beautiful brain of yours to figure out what solutions will truly have an impact on your customers. Choose to find new ways to solve problems with your technology versus simply shipping code.
4. Tell an Awesome Story
If you're a marketer, you have a choice to emotionally show that you desperately care about the challenges your customers face. Choose to tell a story and produce content that goes beyond a product pitch. Be creative and brave in your marketing.
5. Be a Point Person
Finally, as a coworker and part of a team, you have a choice to step up. Take on a stretch assignment. Volunteer to be part of a pilot project. Give more than what's expected, and you might just find yourself in charge one day.
I'll leave you with a few questions to ask yourself:
- Do you take your work seriously?
- What choices are you going to make today?
- Where do you see yourself making a long-term impact?
- How will you choose to demonstrate your leadership?
There is always an opportunity to lead, even if you're not the CEO.