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How Can I Lead When I’m Not In Charge?



One of the strongest opportunities for influence is when a leader’s title or position doesn’t imply that “all the bucks stop here”. In other words, there is an increasing perceived demand on leaders the higher their titles and positions take them in an organizational structure.

Yes, an organization’s success is unfairly credited to the highest level leader (as are the failures, of course!), but many people assume the highest level leaders exert incredible influence. It’s no surprise.


Because of this, incredible, genuine influence can come from a subordinate position. This is because genuine influence is the amount of trust someone places in you regardless of title. A title may give you organizational authority, but real influence can only be granted by individuals.


Genuine influence is the amount of trust someone places in you regardless of title.

So, while you may desire (and deserve) an elevated title or position, you may already be in the perfect position to create trust and leverage influence more quickly because your authority in people’s lives isn’t a requirement of their employment.


In addition, your desire to influence from your vantage point may be more welcomed by leaders above you because, frankly, they want to win and wise leaders will mine great ideas and resource from anywhere they can find it—often outside the C-Suites and board rooms. (Bonus: This mindset often leads to promotions and increased responsibility for some our clients.)


So, how do you do it?


We coach our clients to see that there are at least...


3 surprising ways to influence when you are not in charge.


1. Your Integrity

We don’t mean this in the moral sense; we mean it in the structural sense (think the integrity of a bridge, for instance). The more seriously you take your word (and what you do when you don’t keep it), the stronger you contribute to your family, friends, and team. When your “yes” means “yes” and your “no” means “no” to yourself and others, you create an expectation that you can be trusted with more.


2. Your Feedback

One of the greatest untapped resources in nearly every team we serve is feedback. Long believed to be something you have to sugar-coat or ignore altogether, feedback is an intensely valuable gift when given with permission, humility, and alignment with the recipient’s vision. We have seen clients considered for greater responsibility in their teams after merely exercising the courage to give direct, productive, hold-nothing-back observations to their colleagues and supervisors.


3. Your requests

We could fill volumes with the testimonials of people who have unlocked incredible influence simply by requesting something they thought they “had no business” asking. Requesting to shadow a leader during a big meeting. Requesting to be included in a project before being invited. Requesting further education, coaching, or development to bring more to the team. It's an act of boldness and an act of trust. It invites collaboration and makes some of your vision and desire known to people who have the power to grant opportunities.


There's no need to wait. Wherever you are in a family structure or organizational hierarchy, you have 3 powerful options available to you. There's certainly no guarantee that giving your integrity, feedback, and requests will mean a different title, but it will gain trust. And if you gain trust, you gain influence.

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