How to Lead When You’re Not in Leadership
The question of how to lead when you’re not in leadership is common for emerging leaders. Where do you start? In what ways can you show that you have leadership ability to those who can promote you? In this blog, I share five ways you can lead when you are not in a leadership position yet. I have personally applied these strategies and they worked in my leadership journey.
Volunteer to lead a community event for your organization.
When I was at the first institution I worked at, I saw an opportunity to lead a company-wide effort. The bank had a contest to raise the most money for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Walk for the Cure. The purpose was to encourage employees to get engaged in a friendly competition while raising funds for this worthy cause.
I decided to enter the contest and planned a great strategy –Ask the top executives and owners of the bank to contribute. I made appointments with each one and guess what? They all said yes and contributed. In addition, of course, I asked all my friends and family too. The result? I won the contest! The prize was not only recognition in the company’s newsletter, but also dinner with the owners of the bank. It was a fun experience that allowed me to show my leadership talent while raising the most money for the JDF.
Chair an internal committee
Companies have countless opportunities to join internal committees. But not everyone raises their hand to lead and chair a committee because it usually means additional work with no extra pay. However, chairing an internal committee is an amazing opportunity to lead and display your leadership ability to those in higher leadership positions.
Again, before I was in a leadership position, I took an opportunity to chair an internal bank committee to plan the annual employee event. I worked with employees from all over the organization and got to know new people. In the end, all the additional work and time was worth it. The party was a success and I made lifetime friendships along the way. In addition, the committee got recognition and a big thank you from the top leadership.
Present to senior leadership or Board of Directors
Every time you see an opportunity to present a new initiative, a project, or even a monthly report to the senior leadership and/or to the Board of Directors, take it! You will probably be a nervous wreck at first but if you prepare and do your homework, it will be a worthwhile effort. Everyone needs to present at one time or another during your career. Therefore, it’s crucially important to learn how to present well—especially in front of leadership.
You can practice presenting to your immediate team on any topic within the monthly staff meeting. In addition to presentation skills, you will also learn to use tools such as PowerPoint and the projector in the conference room. It’s incredible how many people don’t know how to use the A/V equipment in the conference rooms and waste countless hours figuring it out before meetings.
Serve on the Board of Directors for a nonprofit
I got my very first leadership role as a bank branch manager mainly because I volunteered to lead a nonprofit Board for a financial women’s association. The association formally trained me on how to conduct Board meetings, how to implement the Robert’s Rules of Order, and how to lead volunteers.
Leading volunteers sometimes can prove to be harder than leading employees because it’s harder to fire volunteers who are not performing in their roles. When you lead a nonprofit Board or Committee, you are not only displaying leadership ability but also your heart to serve without expecting financial compensation in return. The nonprofit organization is grateful for your leadership, time, and effort. You get the experience and the fulfillment to participate in a good cause to help others. It’s a win-win!
Take the initiative to start something
One cannot ever get to a leadership position without first taking the initiative to do something. You must act first and take the initiative to lead, to ask for the job, and to seek opportunities. Remember, you are in charge of your own career. And if you want to lead others, you must recognize that leadership is a big responsibility.
If you question how to lead when you’re not in leadership, I hope these strategies help you answer that question. If you take action on these strategies, I guarantee you doors will open for you. You will then need to take the initiative to go through those doors of opportunities.
Are you ready to lead?