A leader and a manager are not always one in the same. You can be a manager without being an effective leader. In the same way, you can lead and influence people without having a formal title that designates you as a manager or supervisor. Often, showcasing your leadership abilities without a title gets you noticed by a company when it has an open management or supervisory position.

Maxwell's 5 Levels

Renowned leadership expert, author and coach John C. Maxwell introduced a model called the "5 Levels of Leadership" in his 1999 book "Developing the Leader Within You." At level one, a leader operates solely on title or position. Since he can't motivate others through personal leadership qualities, he may revert to "because I'm the boss" as a statement to motivate behavior. At level two, a leader is able to get others to follow his lead and take action because they want to, not because they have to. Thus, a manager may be stuck at level one, while a non-management employee may have level two or higher influence without the title.


Empathy is a core trait of an effective leader. This is the ability to show awareness of and compassion for the situation or needs of another. While strong managers often have empathy, you can use empathy to lead without a title. In a work group, for instance, employees are often drawn to a coworker who proves to be an effective listener and an empathic confidant. When coworkers feel that you care about them and understand their plights, they are more apt to follow your example or give credence to your opinions or perspectives.


Charisma is a unique personal quality that some people possess. It is a natural allure or attraction that draws people toward you. Confidence, a positive attitude and an intriguing personality contribute to your charismatic ability. When you attract attention from others, you are in a position to lead. Charismatic people often provoke enthusiasm and energy in a group. The expression "she lights up a room when she enters" typically describes a charismatic person.


Teamwork in companies has created numerous opportunities for informal leadership. While work teams often have managers, they also commonly complete tasks and projects without formal oversight. Within work teams, some people lead in task direction by sharing technical expertise and assuming responsibility. Others use social influence to build cooperation and to resolve conflicts. In other cases, you can serve as a leader by mentoring less-experienced coworkers or helping train them.