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How to lead without a title or formal training

Leadership opportunities are often overlooked. You miss these opportunities because they are not neatly packaged as officially required.

By looking around your organization, you can identify where things consistently go wrong or fail. Unresolved issues are also overlooked as leadership opportunities, whether you have a title or not.

This week, a former colleague called me to say she felt stuck. She did not hold the position of key project manager. It will have the inner leadership opportunities she needs to demonstrate that she is ready for further advancement. After a few minutes of talking, she began to see leadership opportunities everywhere. That’s what we’re talking about.

Shift the conversation from venting to problem-solving.

Frequent shutdowns to vent meetings, gossip, or bashing managers with colleagues is a great leadership opportunity. “Meeting after the meeting” or vitriolic talk is rampant in some organizations — and exhausting. They start to feel like a bonding opportunity, but become useless if they go on for too long without taking any action to address the core issue. The opportunity to lead is to listen to to a point. Then stop the person or group and notice that some facts seem to be missing or that the conversation is going on for too long. Then figure out more constructive steps you can take to better understand and solve the problem. Participating in negative conversations, or even just bystanders, can slow down your progress in the organization. Leaders are always looking for the facts they need to make informed decisions. Guessing and gossip waste your time and attention.

Lighting the flames under the forgotten initiative.

Every organization has at least one (if not 15) great ideas that are dying. We capture these in planning meetings, but we often don’t have the time or attention to do what needs to be done to keep them going. What I heard this week included new employee onboarding materials, a diversity and inclusion action plan, and a survey of the competitive landscape. Pick what interests you most (maybe few people are interested on the surface, but pick one anyway). Do some research and plan your next steps. What do you, your team or organization need to do in the next four to six weeks in order for this priority to roll? Don’t bother planning too far in advance. You want to build some momentum and see where it goes from there. Some ideas disappear for good reason. If the entire organization has no will to invest, choose something else.

Scan the competitive landscape and report your findings.

Look up and see what’s going on in your industry, your client’s industry, or the world. We’re all so busy with what’s in front of us that we miss trends that seem so obvious in retrospect. You can make a name for yourself as someone who always follows trends, relevant news and puts them in context to understand what it means for your organization.

Remember, leadership opportunities are all around us.

These are just three examples you might overlook. I definitely have in the past. Being too busy or not sure what I’m “allowed” to do also holds me back. Luckily, these three don’t require permission with just a little initiative and time investment. Taking these actions can be personally and professionally satisfying as you build your own leadership and enhance your reputation as an activist.

To help your organization move forward, start where you are, which shows the range of your skills that can help you build a reputation for solving problems.



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