I Am Not a Leader (or So I Thought)

This is a guest post by Tammy Helfrich. She is a wife, mom, and writer. She currently works for a Fortune 500 company and helps customers implement new processes. You can read her blog or follow her on Twitter.

“I don’t have a leader title.”

“I don’t have anyone who reports to me.”

“I don’t have experience leading people.”

Light Bulb Illustrating Leadership - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/shulz, Image #7320959

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/shulz

I used to say these things, as an excuse. I used to say I am not a leader. I used to believe I was not a leader.And do you know what happens when you believe that? You’re lying to yourself.

For most of my life, people had told me that I was a good example for others. But I didn’t always believe it. I often kept people at arm’s length. I didn’t allow them in. I didn’t want to get involved in their stories. That required work.

I have discovered over the years that even though I never wanted a leader title, I was a leader to my peers. I worked hard, and I had good relationships. I always did above and beyond what my job required. I got to know my leaders. I kept a positive attitude. I led by example.

In his book, The 360 Degree Leader, John Maxwell talks about the circle of influence you have. Sometimes people within the middle of an organization have more power than those with leadership titles.

I started paying attention to this. I started conversations with leaders at all levels of our organization. I didn’t have a hidden agenda. I simply wanted to learn and let them know I was with them—I believed in them. I wanted to learn from them.

John Maxwell says,

What matters is that we are willing to do what it takes, to make a positive impact wherever we find ourselves in life—to add value in any way we can to others.”

I believe we can all do this. We can be a leader, regardless of what our title says.

How can you be a leader? There are five tactics.

  1. Take ownership. Be responsible for your work. You own the work that you do. You own your processes. When you do this, people start to notice, and you can help lead others to do the same.
  2. Lead by example. Actions speak louder than words. Be the positive voice within your department, rather than the negative one. Encourage others to look at situations with a positive energy.
  3. Talk to leaders in your organization. Don’t expect anything in return. You will be amazed at how many leaders are willing to talk to you. Not only do they want to hear your ideas, but they are typically more than happy to share what has worked for them.
  4. Offer ideas, don’t just report a problem. Be sure to offer a solution. Many of the best solutions to a company’s challenges come from the middle of an organization. Why? Because these are the people who know what truly happens on a day-to-day basis. Leaders who are willing to listen can often create change with the right ideas and solutions.
  5. Encourage coworkers and leaders. Most people will encourage their coworkers. They work side-by-side with them. However, leaders rarely get encouragement, and it can get very lonely at the top. Showing them you care and you are with them really helps. I have been absolutely amazed at the positive responses I have had from leaders who took my encouragement to heart.

You are a leader. Believe you are a leader. Take a small step forward today. You will be amazed at what a difference it will make.

Question: How have you led—apart from your title? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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