How do you lead without authority? It is a question we all deal with every day. Whether we’re trying to work with colleagues, vendors, customers, community groups, families or just trying to earn our stripes as inspirational leaders, it is wise to have a handful of strategies for different scenarios.
The truth is, I wish more people saw themselves as leaders.
I hope you realize that you don’t need a title, rank in an org chart or formal authority to start leading. You are a leader. And we need you to lead from right where you are.
To help you towards that end, here are 4 easy ways anyone can use when attempting to lead without authority.
How to Lead Without Authority
1. Lead With Questions
You may not be the one “in charge” but you can always lead with great questions. Try out a few of these and see how they can change the course of an entire conversation or meeting:
- What if…?
- Have we considered…?
- Can you help me understand what you mean when you say ___?
- What have we possibly overlooked?
- Who else should we invite to be part of this?
- Is the issue we’re talking about here the real issue?
- What must be done first?
- Can we describe what success looks like for this project?
- What can I do to help?
Which leads us to…
2. Lead By Taking Responsibility
Step up. Speak up. And brave up. Embrace responsibility even if you are faking it at first. Is it really fair to expect people to follow you and trust your ideas if you seem unsure of yourself or unwilling to accept full responsibility? Ask to take on new projects. Dream up a new initiative. Mess up, own up and describe what you learned from the experience. Try again. Deliver. Get results. Improve a system that already exists. Get bigger results. Offer to participate on an existing project. Offer to recruit more help. Or combine points #1 and #2 and take responsibility for asking the tough questions.
3. Lead By Answering WHY
When you’re the person consistently answering WHY questions for others, people begin to instinctively lean on your insight. Why is this project important? Why are we doing it this way? Why me? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, go back to point #1 and lead with questions, so that you can gain a deeper understanding and begin articulating with clarity for others. Why? Because leading without authority is all about your ability to have a positive influence on the people around you and inspire them.
4. Lead With Enthusiasm
Your emotions are contagious. Think about the leaders you are drawn to. They have vision, passion and a belief in a better tomorrow. That’s why we are drawn to them and want to follow them. They are going somewhere awesome and we want to be part of it. Now think about the emotions you display. Be honest with yourself. Are you a complainer often portraying a victim mentality? Or perhaps even more tragic, are you quietly flying under the radar waiting for someone to magically invite you into leadership… sorry, not going to happen. We are drawn to passionate people on a mission that we believe in. Give people a reason to follow you. Even if you’re not in charge, you can always take responsibility for raising the energy in the group and rallying people around a shared mission.
Hopefully, you are as inspired by these four easy strategies as I am and feel ready to lead without authority today (and any day).
Go forth and bring your enthusiasm. Inspire others. Take responsibility and ask great questions.
Lead from wherever you are and you will make a big difference.
Out of curiosity, which of these strategies is your favorite and/or what other ways do you lead without authority?