The upshot is that you can lead from wherever you are positioned in the organization.
Leadership is all about exerting positive influence in the pursuit of worthy goals. The
10 strategies identified above all help you grow leadership capacity and use leadership
for your benefit and the benefit of the organization.
Develop "positive regard" for your manager.
Through observation, conversations, and reflection, you need to get into the head
of your manager and identify his or her values, goals, concerns, and preferred
work styles. This positive regard will then help you frame your ideas, suggestions,
and proposals in terms that appeal to or resonate with your manager. For instance,
if your manager is obsessive about reducing the budget, you should frame any proposal
so that it highlights how your unit or department can become more cost-effective.
Offer to take projects or tasks off the plate of your manager or others.
Higher-ups are often overwhelmed with demands and too many priorities or
simply dislike some aspect of their positions. Therefore, a good way to expand
your responsibilities and enhance your skills and experiences is to volunteer to
take on a project that would help lessen the load of your manager or another
manager, or to do a task (i.e., write a project report) that does not appeal to
a superior. If you relieve a manager in this way, the manager is often willing
to coach you on the project or assignment. Plus, by helping your manager with a
project, your boss may help you take on a new assignment that you desire.
Be selective about taking on new assignments.
As a result of a new project, you want to learn new skills and expand your
leadership capacity. So you need to evaluate possible assignments for which you
can volunteer in terms of the opportunity to develop new competencies, including
leadership skills, expand your relationships inside and outside the organization,
and interact with boards, commissions, and advisory groups. To gain the support of
your supervisor, you should conduct at least a periodic "development conversation"
with your boss so that he or she knows the kinds of new assignments that you are seeking.
Adopt your boss' view.
To influence your boss or the boss of your boss, you need to identify the needs and
priorities of the whole organization and relate your suggestions and any proposals
to the big picture, not the objectives of your unit or even your department. In
addition to adopting a big-picture view, it is helpful to relate any ideas to your
manager's "hot button" issues related to key services, budget, critical stakeholders,
or to your manager's particular notion of legacy. In other words, you must adopt
the boss' point of view.
Communicate in your manager's language.
How does your manager like information? Is your boss a spread-sheet "numbers"
guy or gal, or does he or she like a narrative?
You can even "paint a picture" by developing a video interviewing citizens or
partners, or take your manager into the field in order to talk with business people,
seniors citizens, or neighborhood leaders. These kinds of efforts enhance your ability
to communicate and enhance your credibility.
Expand your network/use your network.
To increase your value and potential influence, you should expand your network,
especially to other departments and to partners outside the organization. By
expanding your network, you can begin to identify and assess opportunities to solve
problems, redesign services, create partnerships, or innovate in specific areas. Then
you can volunteer yourself and your relationships to help solve the problems that you
Leverage your assets.
In addition to your relationships, you have an array of assets to offer in addressing
important issues. While you may not have positional authority, you have knowledge and
specialized expertise (i.e., budgeting, land use planning, environmental management,
redevelopment) and energy and passion for a particular project. If you leverage your
assets in addressing a key issue, you gain influence with respect to that issue and
Become a key communicator.
If you expand your relationships and use them to spread key messages of importance to
top management, then senior managers become more dependent on you to help get the word
out. Plus, communication is a two-way street. Senior managers need feedback so that
they get a realistic view of how their ideas or proposals are being received.
Sell the benefits of your proposal, but also provide cost-benefit analysis.
As you try to influence your manager and sell an idea or proposal, you must certainly
focus on the key benefits, particularly those of interest to the manager. But in this
day of constrained funding, time, and energy, you also need to discuss how your idea
is a good use of limited resources.
Help your manager or other team members in group meetings.
Every team needs help to become more productive and achieve its goals. Even though you may not have
authority as the formal leader of the team, ask yourself how you can facilitate the discussion,
encourage others, galvanize action, start a courageous conversation, or take an a key responsibility
or assignment in order to move the team forward. If you are viewed by the team leader or other team
members as a valuable asset in helping the group become more effective, you will build your
influence inside and outside the team setting.