Leading without a title

09 October 2020 | Columns

Until you arrive at the level where you desire to be, lead where you are. Leadership is not a position; it is a combination of character traits. My previous article (on 25 September 2020) was written to the employer, on behalf of the millennial. Today, I write to the millennial, on behalf of the employer. There are many definitions of leadership, but as you read this article, have only this definition in mind, my personal favourite, by JC Maxwell, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way”.

Know the way

Titles are great, they massage our egos and make us feel a little extra important, but imagine an organisation of people who are leaders by character not by position. People whose values, i.e. actions, are not defined by the magnitude of authority that their position gives them, but rather by a vision genuinely aligned to that of their organisation. One feature that will stand out in the brand image of such an establishment is organisational effectiveness. When you begin to understand the impact of the work that you do has on the mandate of your organisation, your mindset towards your capabilities and your responsibilities shifts. Easier said, than done, you might say. You are correct, I would add. What comes easy, is routine, what comes with a challenge is growth. Knowing the way is about understanding the mandate of your organisation, being interested in the vision and purposefully aligning yourself to the values.

Go the way

This goes far and beyond doing what you are expected to do. It alludes to the desire to go an extra mile. Apart from willingness, the reasons people are sometimes unable to do more than is expected of them ranges from having limited or lack of skills, understanding, experience, awareness or other resources. Take time to assess yourself and be open to the assessment of others around you. This will assist you in identifying the gaps that limit you from “going the way”. You may discover that most gaps can actually be closed through your own efforts. Young professionals should be excited to be building their careers in times like these, where information, as they say, is at our fingertips. If you can find the latest fashion trends, surely you can discover the trending skills that will help you work better and more effectively. When you know the way, going the way only requires you to have the right attitude, amongst other things.

Show the way

To show the way may simply imply being exemplary in the capacity within which you have been entrusted. You might not have people reporting to you, but setting high standards of delivery for yourself is a measure of leadership. You are showing the way for those who will follow in the same position long after you have progressed to another level. Showing the way does not require your physical presence. It might mean the legacy of your work, which others may give reference to. Showing the way may even work in your favour as you journey on in your career. Your future employer or future promotion will be determined by the path you pave today. As you know, recruiters rely on what you have done in order to have confidence in what you can potentially do.

Position yourself now

The journey starts with choice. Choosing to act as a leader, on a daily basis, is more empowering. As you are deliberately and habitually chiselling yourself into a professional that is self-motivated, self-aware, proactive, resilient and many other characteristics required of a leader. Position yourself, for that future leadership (position) you desire, by leading where you are right now, without a ‘title’.

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