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Project Management

Demonstrating Leadership without Authority


A colleague recently reached out to me asking for advice on growing skills and obtaining certifications to meet their goals of being given the role of leader.  Our conversation ended up focusing on how certifications and skills are essential, but it’s practicing key skills and taking initiative that benefit you more.  While the title may take time to reach, the opportunity to earn recognition as a leader may be closer than one might expect!

So what’s the secret?

Showing leadership without having authority.

You can do many things to show leadership without having an official title that makes you a leader.  You can show leadership both within your team and show thought leadership within your company.  Be a good role model of the skills and characteristics you feel an excellent leader embodies

You don’t have to step in and run the team; it’s about stepping up and helping the team move forward and improve. This could include:

  • Sharing ideas – freely share your ideas with your team members but hold them lightly.  Not every idea will work well for the team, so don’t let one rejection stop you from sharing ideas in the future.
  • Listening to others – be a person your team knows will always be willing to listen.  You don’t have to have all the answers, even as a leader, and you just have to be willing to listen.
  • Step up when there are challenges – be selfless.  When your team is having a problem, step up and help.  Lead the charge to solve the issue.
  • Take initiative – if you see something that needs to be done, do it.  You don’t have to make a big deal about it because people will notice.  If the official project leader is going to be away, volunteer to take on some of their responsibilities while they are out.  It’s a great way to learn.
  • Offer help and knowledge – help your team members when they need it.  Share the knowledge that you have for the betterment of the team, not just yourself.

Showing thought leadership within the company is also a great way to show you are learning what it takes to be a great leader.  Some ideas might include:

  • Participate in internal projects – look for opportunities to be part of internal projects outside of your regular project work.  These allow you to try new things, practice leadership skills, and increase your visibility.
  • Share your knowledge – does your company have internal groups or communities of practice, like Perficient’s Agile Community?  Do they have periodic lightning talks or lunch and learns?  Volunteer to give a speech!  It is excellent practice and gives you more credibility on your topics of interest.  In addition, teaching others is a great way to validate your own understanding of a topic.
  • Write a blog post – if your company has a blog, internal or external, take advantage of it!  Practice your writing skills, articulating your ideas clearly, and use it to help build your thought leadership credentials.

Practicing leadership without authority or title is a great way to build your leadership skills and your reputation.  When new challenges or projects arise, people will think of your name.  You’ll find yourself with increased opportunities, helping you become the leader you want to be and advance towards the title you want.

How do you show leadership in your team or organization?

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Jennifer Rostal

Jennifer is a senior project manager at Perficient. She is a Certified Team Coach and Scrum Foundations Educator with the Scrum Alliance and the Perficient Agile Community founder. Her passion is helping customers, colleagues, and teams build their agile mindsets, relationships, and skills through coaching, training, and mentoring.

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