You need not be the project manager to lead the team. Anyone can step up and play a leadership role. You can influence outcomes, regardless of your role in the workplace, by recognizing when leadership opportunities arise and seizing them. Influencing without direct authority involves cultivating a broad network, learning how to persuade colleagues, negotiating with stakeholders, consulting with others to carry out initiatives, and building coalitions. Don't wait to receive an official promotion or title to manage change, innovate and reduce stress for others by setting a good, positive example for your teammates.
Do the Work
People naturally respect team members who work hard. Do your job and take on more responsibilities if you want to be viewed as a leader in your company. Building trust and establishing credibility help you build your leadership presence, dignified demeanor or gravitas. A leader takes on the tough assignments and makes the necessary connections to solve complex problems. Set a good example by showing discipline, such as showing up for meetings on time, staying late if a task needs completion and offering to assist a colleague who appears to be struggling to meet a deadline.
Watch Your Words
Effective leaders provide useful feedback to subordinates. They do so by choosing their words carefully to preserve morale and maintain relationships. Leading by example means taking a role in resolving minor conflicts before they blossom into larger distractions. This means speaking frankly but without provoking further controversy to help team members resolve interpersonal disputes. Leading by example also means providing constructive feedback on a co-worker’s performance when necessary but doing so privately and tactfully. Additionally, leading without authoring involves respecting the established hierarchy and never intentionally undermining the current leadership.
Leadership also typically requires knowing how to react in difficult situations. Autocratic leaders make decisions by themselves. Democratic leaders ask for input before making changes that impact the team. Leading by example may involve sitting back and listening to team members' complaints and disagreements. This helps leaders get input, allowing them to direct activities for the team from a more realistic point of view. Great leaders know that knowledge resides in team members' heads and getting them to open up and brainstorm ideas can help improve productivity.
Reward Team Members
Some team members appreciate public recognition for their achievements. Even if a team member doesn't hold a management position, she can thank other team members for their hard work, insight and innovative techniques. By showing other team members respect, a team member can earn theirs in return. This improves morale and establishes her position as a leader. Simply by being kind, generous and constructive, she can motivate the team and earn their admiration.
Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.