Learning how to demonstrate leadership without a title can set a foundation for career success, whether your aim is to improve in your role, or to be considered for promotion.
A key item to note is that one's acting as a leader isn't dependent on
job title, formal authority, or supervisory responsibility. In other words, you don't need to be a manager to lead.
✅ Anyone can be a leader.
The way this looks varies from one organization to the next. In my experience, I've found communication, recognition, coaching, and mentoring to be constants that provide a foundation for individual and team success.
Because so many key moments happen informally, outside of scheduled development, it's interesting to have access to a "mic'd up" example. The video below lets us listen in on a USWNT ⚽ Training Camp practice, and it's easy to connect what's seen in communication with the business world.
The way that leaders communicate can enhance or diminish the quality of a professional relationship and the levels of engagement that occur after an interaction.
In the video, a moment that stands out to me occurs from 4:58 - 5:12 where Kelley O'Hara, a more senior member of the team, calls Ashley Hatch, a newer player, over to provide some in-the-moment coaching. While not a closed door conversation, and with some players within earshot, the conversation is closer to being 1:1, and with lower volume of voice than is seen in moments when public recognition and praise are being given.
O'Hara's example mirrors the adage of praising in public and criticizing or correcting in private. And, where there were players observing the interaction, it also supports the Model the Way element of The 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership.
To effectively apply these skills in an office setting, focus on:
Find out how your employees like to be recognized. Some will appreciate public celebration. Others will enjoy a 1:1 conversation. No matter which, be genuine in your presentation.
When it comes time to provide course correction or to have disciplinary conversations, do so 1:1 and behind closed doors. Most of all, be discreet and protect your team members' or employees' confidence.
Consider your words and actions. Do they align with one another? Do they align with the objectives of your team and organization?
If they do, others will recognize your authenticity, and will be likely to follow your lead with behaviors that match yours. If it's perceived that there's misalignment, or that you're inauthentic in your example, communication will suffer and disengagement will increase.
Be open, honest, and frequent in your communication. Clarity and consistency will be desired by your audience. Utilize multiple channels to provide your messaging to reach team members and employees where they are.
Years ago, before I'd moved into management, I was a personal trainer. It was my 1st role out of college, and I was on a team of fellow, fitness professionals at a small, community-driven, gym in a suburb of Boston.
With the help of a strong group of mentors, the advantage of knowledge from my undergraduate degree in Physical Education & Exercise Science, and with an insatiable appetite for continuous learning in sales and program design, I had good success in attracting, enrolling, and keeping clients, and in helping them achieve results.
Where leadership without a title came into play was in helping other personal trainers in their sales and programming skills. Being 22 at the time, it wasn't something I'd practiced to take initiative in offering and providing this type of support, especially to those of different generations. Yet, in the same way I'd coach my clients in getting their reps in, I did the same with the encouragement and watchful eye of my managers.
The result was that I became a more confident and effective leader, preparing me for future, supervisory roles. And, more importantly, our team grew close and achieved greater success, both in business and in making meaningful impact for our clients.
Mentorship can occur formally, through programs developed within your organization, and informally, through connections occurring naturally in the business setting.
I was fortunate, early in my career, to have mentors who held different roles within the company. A personal trainer, fitness manager, general manager, area fitness manager, and regional manager (sales and operations) were among those who supported my initial growth.
If you're not in an environment where mentorship appears to be available, all hope's not lost. I recommend connecting with your HR team to see if a mentorship program can be developed. While that may take some time, a second avenue, no less impactful. exists in the connections you may be able to develop through networking on sites like LinkedIn.
To better demonstrate leadership without a title, put the following into practice:
✅ Praise in public, correct in private
✅ Be the example
This section of the site is an excellent foundation for developing leadership skills, understanding different types of leadership, and exploring leadership styles.
To continue your learning:
David Bohmiller, MBA, MS (he/him/his)
Founder, CEO and Consulting Executive
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