How to lead from any chair


ChangingCoursesquareDuring my tenure in human resources, I have given advice to numerous employees. The topic of leadership, in particular, leading from wherever you are in the organization, consistently comes up. Let’s explore some best practices for leading and influencing from any role.

Whether you’re a manager, a frontline worker, or an independent contractor, at some point you will have to influence the performance of people who don’t formally report to you. My experience in all three roles has taught me some basic pointers about leading without authority. These principles work even in roles where authority is a given.

Be generous with information

We all need information in order to make wise, practical and strategic decisions. Instead of withholding information from your peers, be free and transparent with it. It is necessary for you to give your coworkers the information they need to confidently step into leadership roles as necessary and taking responsibility for achieving workplace goals.

Be a student, not the teacher

Leaders who don’t have formal authority come under suspicion when they act more like a captain than a team player. Both know that outcomes matter, but the team player downplays her motivations as she leads quietly, whereas the captain tends to announce their goals and motivations.

The effective informal leader is curious rather than overseeing. Students may even know more than the teacher, but acting humbly will open more doors to success and make you a better student and teacher.

Be passionate 

Passionate people have a love for what they do, and they work with a sense of urgency. Generally, when others see that you are passionate about a project, they too will become excited. When you show what really drives you is the success of the project, and you let other people see that, most of them will be drawn toward your goal. Use this interest to drive others to act.

Not a leader?

Let’s face it, not everyone wants to be a leader. And some may not have what it takes to be a leader. Below are a few tips by which you can assess yourself:

You don’t get results. Leaders are producers; they get results.

You get results the wrong way. If the only way you get others to listen to you and work with you is by upset and bullying, you’re not a leader. If you misuse your influence, others may malign you and not see you as a leader.

You are indifferent about project outcomes — you may not care either way. I’ve seen employees who were put on projects that they thought were a waste of time. The employees grew weary, did not have goal agreement, and were very antagonistic. The real test of any leader is whether or not those they lead or influence are better off for being led by them.

You are afraid to break the rules. Status quo is the enemy of leadership. Leaders must be able to assess the need for change, and then become a change agent.

According to Forbes Magazine, one of the most often overlooked aspects of leadership is the need for pursuit. Great leaders are never satisfied with static thinking or common performance. In fact, the best leaders are simply uncomfortable with anything that embraces the status quo. Forbes defines leadership as pursuit — pursuit of excellence, of elegance, of value, of results, of relationships, of service, of knowledge, and of something bigger than you.

Influencers and leaders know that pursuit for the sake of pursuit is a time waster. However, purposeful pursuit, when it is collaborative and focused, can be a powerful means to getting much accomplished in little time.


Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to