Leading the Way: Influencing Others Without Formal Authority

Leadership and authority do not have the same meaning, although they often coincide in business practices.

Individuals with high levels of authority are usually trusted as leaders in the industry. However, it is possible, and even necessary, for people with little or no official authority to develop and display excellent leadership skills. So, why should you try to lead if you don’t have authority?

Leadership is not limited to middle and upper management. Most businesses require employees at all levels to interact with stakeholders, managers, vendors, and colleagues. As a result, there are numerous leadership opportunities in everyday work.

Stepping up to help others not only allows you to develop your unique skill sets but also presents you in a positive light, showing others that you are a team player with the necessary leadership qualities for advancement.

The benefits of taking initiative and finding opportunities to lead include:

Traits of a Leader

Anyone can develop leadership skills, but successful leaders possess certain traits.

Even without authority, a good leader is confident in their abilities, both in performing tasks and communicating information. Displaying confidence makes it easier for others to rally around you, support your ideas, and learn from you.

Good leaders align their level of confidence with their level of expertise. When you demonstrate that you know what you’re doing, understand the subject matter, and can guide others in the right direction, people tend to trust you.

Lastly, a good leader is emotionally intelligent. Leaders aim to uplift others rather than leaving them behind or expecting them to make drastic leaps in their skill levels. Listening to your colleagues’ needs and meeting them where they are with a genuine desire to help is a mark of true leadership.

Four Strategies to Build Your Leadership Skills

To develop your own leadership skills, regardless of whether you hold a position of authority, consider the following strategies:

  1. Encourage Discussion: Facilitate conversations among your colleagues. This allows for a natural flow of ideas, enables you to ask questions and gain insights into what your team needs from you. Be open-minded and carefully consider the statements made by your team members. Simply asking for information is an effective way to discover how you can assist others.
  2. Seek Results: Many hesitate to lead others when they are not in a leadership position due to a preoccupation with titles. In the business world, behaviors and lessons are often valued based on the level or title of the person presenting them. However, when it comes to leadership, titles matter less than the outcomes you can achieve. Focus on the results you can help your team generate rather than getting caught up in the authoritative approach associated with prestigious job titles. Remember, your goal is to help others thrive, not to exert power or control over them.
  3. Maintain Humanity: Taking a people-first approach when leading your colleagues in skill development or other endeavors is crucial. You are working with complex human beings, and to elicit the best possible responses, you need to treat them as such. Your colleagues have lives outside of work, and external events can sometimes impact their performance. Show empathy, offer assistance, and strive to be understanding.
  4. Learn from Other Leaders: Take the time to observe the behaviors of others to recognize leadership qualities that you respect. Whether you learn from leaders or colleagues at your own level, paying close attention to how they interact with their peers can help you focus on the specific skills you want to develop.

Leadership is a trait that requires backing up in order for people to truly trust and respect your judgment. To further develop your leadership skills, check out our event, Leading Without Authority: Influence, Persuade & Motivate.”