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6 Authentic Qualities Leaders Possess Even When They’re Not The Boss


6 Authentic Qualities Leaders Possess Even When They’re Not The Boss

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 (, 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 (, 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.


What Fortune’s “100 Best Companies” Do Differently

Leadership, being a strong component of management has manifested itself into the forefront of many executives and aspiring leaders. There are many academic studies that focus on the organizational and managerial factors that drive organizational competitiveness. Leadership is one such area that plays a critical role and is a strategic prerequisite for business success in today’s knowledge-based economy.

However, some researchers critique the literature of leadership for having no relevance between leadership theories and today‘s changing business environment. Particularly, these authors feel that there are various issues and considerations existing in the leadership literature as the core of the criticism in the literature is that organizations of all sorts (corporations, government agencies, and non-profit organizations) tend to be over-managed (and, in some cases, over-administrated) and under-led. Reading all the books on leadership today will cover the gamut of Shakespeare to Geronimo. Not to say that these authors, leaders, and thinkers do not have anything good to say about leadership. It is just that the plethora of leadership literature has sent mixed signals to corporate leaders.

Today, the question remains, can leaders be made, or do they have to be born leaders to be successful? Before attempting to answer this question, let us agree that leaders can be made and that being a born leader may be an additional attribute of leadership. This article aims at answering this central question. Scholars who are experts in leadership illustrate, in an attempt to differentiate the concepts of leadership and management, that while a leader acquires his competencies by embracing education, a manager becomes familiar with managerial activities by undergoing training. The education system is more strategic, synthetic, experimental, flexible, active, and broad when compared to training principles that manifest themselves in being passive, narrow, and rote.

Moreover, there is a profound difference between leaders and managers. A leader takes a proactive approach towards more strategic goals and evokes expectations of followers and images for them to follow in the direction of influencing and coaching them. Leadership focuses on challenging the current norms and motivating employees. Followers, as intellectual capital, are trained to think about organizational issues in a more innovative and creative manner.

This intention cannot be achieved without developing trust-based relationships by which human assets could share their knowledge and new ideas with others. So the question still arises that why is management and leadership so different. Henry Mintzberg, an author and scholar in the area of management at McGill University in Canada feels that they are not so different, and being a manager is being a leader. For example, management emphasizes more operational objectives rather than investigating strategic goals. Therefore, management has been highlighted as an authority relationship to maintain the status quo through coordinating and controlling subordinate activities. This is where scholars part ways. Once the status quo is mentioned, it appears that management is stagnant and overly consuming in nature. It is not, management and leadership are one in the same and to be a good manager a person has to also be a good leader.

The following table summarizes some distinctions between leadership and management. The table indicates a dichotomy of management and leadership but anyone can see that being both is much more important than being simply one or the other.

doing the right things doing things right
Coaching evaluating
taking a proactive approach taking a reactive approach
having a long-term perspective having a short-term perspective
enhancing trust controlling subordinates
Innovating performing functions
focusing on people focusing on structure
challenging norms maintaining the status quo


Today’s global expansion of business is constantly changing as organizations are increasingly participating in international markets. A new leadership approach may be necessary as the globalized market demands are increasingly difficult to adapt and sustain profitability. The emergence of global business environments drives companies to become world-class. Leaders in Fortune’s 100 best companies play a crucial role in achieving a high level of effectiveness and world-class efficiency and effectiveness.

This article summarizes my experience of working with more than 30 Fortune’s 100 best companies. My experience says that organizational commitment, flexibility, and innovation are necessary attributes to evaluate the success of organizations in global markets. In fact, effective leaders in 30 Fortune’s 100 best companies are highly characterized by enablers of organizational commitment, flexibility, and problem-solving oriented. The global markets represent cross-cultural settings and require top management executives who can adapt to various environments successfully. A cross-cultural setting can enhance the employee’s organizational commitment through empowering human assets and developing an inspiring vision for the future.

The major tasks of leaders in Fortune’s 100 best companies include:

-Empowering employees

-Generating a shared vision and

-Creating fundamental changes at the organizational level.

Furthermore, sustained performance in global markets is dependent on continuous learning. Leaders in Fortune’s 100 best companies build a learning climate through identifying intellectual capital and empowering them. These executives also improve knowledge sharing and learning. They are the most qualified executives that may be able to enhance organization performance in global markets through empowering human resources and enabling change. One way that this leadership may be valuable is because it sheds light on the critical role of employee’s attitudes and values in implementing change. In fact, these leaders feature effective organizational change as a by-product of developing relationships with subordinates.

Leadership should be, therefore, embraced at the senior level of organizations to enable performance in globalized markets through implementing organizational change and developing a shared vision for future expansion into global markets.

Moreover, success in today’s global business environment can be more effective when leadership is applied to change attitudes and assumptions at the individual level and creating collective-interests for cultural adaptation. Leaders in Fortune’s 100 best companies generate a shared and inspiring vision for the future expansion into global markets and then secure a foothold in the ever-expansive global marketplace.

In conclusion, executives began to listen and respond to the plethora of information in the form of articles, books, and models attempting to provide leadership to help impact not only the production and profitability of the organization but also the competitive advantage. This article blends scholarly concepts with real-world applications and provides real examples of how leaders in Fortune’s 100 best companies dramatically affect the way their companies perform their functions.


Mostafa Sayyadi works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to business publications and his work has been featured in top-flight business publications.