Some people lead because it’s in their job description.
But anyone can step up and take a leadership role in a business or organization, even when they have no authority to back up what they are trying to achieve, says Carrie Root, author of The Other Soft Skill: How to Solve Workplace Challenges with Generational Intelligence.
In multi-generational workplaces where employees can include Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Gen Z, you don’t have to be the oldest worker or the one with the most seniority in the company to show your leadership skills. But Root says you do need to be engaging, inspiring and credible – without being bossy.
“The challenge is to get people to follow your lead or your ideas because they want to, not because they are told to,” says Root, who is also founder and CEO of Alpha UMi (www.5gpowerskills.com), an educational consulting firm that creates professional development curricula.
She says those who are most successful at leading without authority usually possess certain characteristics and skills that make others willing to listen to what they have to say.
“Few will be proficient in all these skills,” she says, “but most successful leaders in the lead-without-authority realm will possess most of them.”
A few of those characteristics and skills include:
Be seen as trustworthy. Root says that trust is a foundational block of leadership. “It is especially important to someone who wants their ideas achieved,” she says. “The group needs to believe that the leader will be there to see it through.”
Have a positive attitude and a growth mindset. Whatever emotional energy a leader displays – positive or negative – is transmitted to the group. “People who exude positivity are much more fun to work with than those who portray a gloom and doom philosophy,” Root says.
Be succinct. In today’s world of Instagram and Twitter, you are playing to short attention spans, Root says. “It’s always good to share the ‘why’ but it’s got to be short,” she says. “Likewise, condense your vision into concepts that are easily understandable and quick to grasp. Plan to work the details out in committee.”
Be a good communicator and organizer. Strive to maintain energy and organization through emails and other information-sharing means when you are not meeting. “Make sure the organizational assignments are clear,” she says. “No one likes to find out that the work they did was also done by someone else.”
Show your appreciation. Everyone likes to have their contributions recognized. “This can be as simple as giving credit as opposed to taking credit,” Root says. “But a ‘thank you’ goes a long way towards fostering a sense of appreciation with those who are working with you.”
Check your ego at the door. Root says she has seen situations where egos drove extremely productive individuals to the sidelines, significantly costing the organization. “Recognize that there is more than your way to achieve goals,” she says. “Be open and encouraging to others’ ideas. Allow the group the opportunity to determine their path forward. This will give them ownership of the path.”
“A person who can lead without authority often radiates passion about the task they have taken on,” Root says. “They are good listeners who understand that there is more than just their way to do something. They are encouragers of individual ideas and talents while keeping the group headed towards their goal. Leading without authority happens when groups are energized through the recognition that the drive to achieve comes from the group.
Carrie Root, author of The Other Soft Skill: How to Solve Workplace Challenges with Generational Intelligence, is the founder and CEO of Alpha UMi (www.5gpowerskills.com), an education consulting firm that develops professional-development curricula. Her company has provided workshops at conferences for major corporations and associations. Prior to founding Alpha UMi, Root had a successful engineering career working for large and small businesses, followed by more than two decades consulting as a high-level troubleshooter for the U.S. Navy.