How to Lead at Work When You Aren't the Boss

Posted November 14, 2016

Leaders aren't always the manager, the executive or the politician. Frequently, the everyday title-less person is the one taking charge of a situation or giving direction to willing followers.

If you want to assume a leadership role in your workplace, you don't have to wait for a fancy title. You just need to think analytically and foster cooperation amongst your team.

Focus on objectives

Whether it's a short-term project or ongoing collaboration, a natural leader's first approach for any team dynamic is getting those around them to focus on goals and objectives. You can take your first step toward a leadership role by directing initial discussions toward what your team hopes to accomplish. By establishing clear goals, you are helping your team members to identify their own responsibilities, a gesture they will appreciate.

Be methodical

During the typical work meeting, people usually dive right into the subject at hand and begin debating over how to proceed. Leaders, on the other hand, learn to think methodically, accumulating information so they can analyze the root causes of the situation and propose an action based on their analysis.

In a group, leaders help keep volunteers on target by asking probing questions. Leaders avoid the unnecessary tangents and sidebars that often pop up in these meetings.

Review in real time

Teams often finish a project or reach the end of the year, and then conduct an evaluation to determine what went right and what went wrong. However, it's often more effective for a team to learn as they go.

Reviewing methods and results in real time can be a more effective approach as events are fresh in everyone's mind. The team can then act on what they learn from each assessment.

Anyone who encourages the group to take part in regular assessments and gain knowledge from them is a de facto leader.

Interact with every team member

A successful team makes use of contributions from every member, and effective leaders look for the best fit between individual members' skills and the tasks at hand. If nobody wants a given task or there isn't someone with the needed skill set, a leader wants to discuss ways to make that task achievable. Leaders also work to extract contributions from the group's quieter members, so that everyone feels like a part of the team and takes ownership in the effort.

Offer encouragement and strategic constructive criticism

It's natural for team members to provide feedback to each other. If you're looking to assume a bit of a leadership role, you should provide purpose to this feedback.

Everyone appreciates the occasional word of encouragement, and some people are open to assistance or constructive criticism. When giving suggestions or guidance, be sure to explain your thought process behind the suggestion and be open to the possibility that your advice might be rejected.

At Ambassador, we help people grow from becoming unofficial leaders to individuals with official leadership roles. If you’re currently looking to take the next step in your career, please feel free to contact us today to work with a full-service staffing agency!