Almost every group coaching program or workshop that I’ve hosted in the past five years has had at least one individual who would ask me this question: “Sunil, all these principles and concepts are great, but I think these are more suited for the board of directors or high-level leaders who have a seat at the table, not for managers/HR professionals/creative artists/team leader/junior manager/fill-in-your-favorite-non-leadership-title like me.“
My response is usually a smile, partly because I’d already anticipated it, but mostly because culturally, we’ve grown up thinking leadership is all about having the authority to ‘call the shots.’ That’s far, far from the truth.
Leadership is a practice, but more importantly, it’s a mindset. The very fact that you don’t have to wait for anyone’s instruction to clean up your room, organize your desk, or even reach out to your colleague to help them out are leadership traits. You may not see it that way, but these practices have a great carryover to leading others.
If you want to be a leader, you need to show up and raise your hand. That’s it!
So, if your boss calls in for a meeting and introduces a beast of a project that has everyone groaning and complaining, raise your hand and take the lead to be the project manager or any role that might assist the boss in executing it better. That’s leadership! Of course, you won’t be ruling over anyone or calling the shots, but it’s a level up from groaning with your peers.
If the boss doesn’t trust you, that is alright. Could you do what you can do to help him anyway? And do it often, so he takes notice. That’s how you build trust. He will soon be looking for you to take up mini-projects, followed by more extensive projects, massive initiatives, and perhaps one day, the very department he’s leading. Why would he do that? Because he needs someone who can take care of what he’s painstakingly built over the years. And who better than you can manage that?
Do you see what happened there? All because you took the initiative to lead, to serve from where you are. Suppose you couldn’t care about titles, more power to you! Not all leaders care about authority or labels, for some, it’s just about having built enough credibility and trust to have a say. And that’s more than enough at times.
But there’s no way you can ever hope to get there without having the right mindset. That’s the key, and perhaps, the only thing you need to become a leader.