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You Don’t Need to be a Leader to Lead!

You Don't Need to be a Leader to Lead!.jpg

I am working with a client to roll out a two week training program for their individual contributors. This program is designed to focus on increasing leadership skills among employees. On the first day of the program, a few of the participants came up to me and said they were pleased to be in the workshop but were surprised that they were expected to be leaders when they didn’t manage anyone and were, in fact, individual contributors within the organization. My response – you don’t need to be a leader to lead!

When individual employees take on leadership roles, benefits are many to the organization and to the employees. They include:

Organizational Benefits

Individual Benefits

  • Distributed leadership throughout the organization
  • Improved problem solving, increased innovation and creativity in products and services
  • Increased customer support
  • Pushing the vision and mission of the organization down through the organization
  • Preparing future leaders
  • Increased knowledge sharing throughout the organization
  • Engaged and committed employees
  • Increased responsibilities within the organization (learning opportunities)
  • Ability to better control the environment, manage problems or conflicts that arise
  • Ability to contribute to the growth of the organization
  • Sharing of knowledge and expertise
  • Preparing for future leadership roles within the organization
  • Helping to set the direction of the organization
  • Ability to set your own direction (where you want to go within the organization)

As an individual contributor, you can be a leader by doing the following:

Communicating/sharing information from the customer: Be the liaison between the customer and senior leadership. You are likely closer to the customer than any of the executives within the organization. You understand customer needs and wants. Use that information to provide ideas for new or updates to products and services that meet customer needs.

Improving how the work gets done: Similarly, you and your co-workers are the ones doing the work of the business. Determine how to get the work done better through taking the lead to improve processes and procedures. Make suggestions for the use of technology to improve how the work gets done or to better support customers overall. Determine how an improvement in a process or procedure will reduce costs, increase revenue or increase customer satisfaction and use that information to make the case to lead a process improvement initiative.

Developing strong working relationships with others: Strong working relationships are essential to get things done. As an individual contributor, you don’t have employees reporting to you. In order to get things done, you need to work with others. And you need to influence those individuals to work with you. For example, you can’t take the lead of improving processes if you don’t have the support of your colleagues who also utilize that process. You need them to work with you! Through building strong relationships throughout the organization you enable for getting the support you need to work on initiatives or make improvements and can better share your ideas, suggestions, thoughts with others. You’ll learn of challenges that others face and may just have the solution to that challenge!

Taking the lead to solve problems/resolve conflicts: You may see conflicts and problems in the early stages before they bubble up to the top level of the organization. Don’t just stand by idly! Assist in resolving the conflict or problem by offering to mediate or work alongside someone to develop a solution. By the way, building strong relationships is key to being successful in this regard!

Taking on additional responsibilities to help the organization meet goals: Those who demonstrate leadership skills go above and beyond their normal job duties/responsibilities. They take the lead on process improvement initiatives, offer to assist another department on a major project, help to plan a corporate event, assist in evaluating a new product or service, etc. Get involved in other areas of the organization to help increase your own skills and knowledge and share your expertise with others. You want to have an understanding of the workings of the entire organization, not just your own department.

Ask questions: Not sure about the vision or mission of the organization? Unsure about the long term strategy? Be the one to ask the questions! Ask your manager for details on the organization’s long term goals and what they hope to accomplish. This enables you to better align your own work with that of your department, division and the organization as a whole. We all want to be working toward the right goals to ensure we contribute where needed.

How do you take on a leadership role in your organization?

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