Many group efforts are doomed to fail if they do not have a quality leader. Imagine everyone being left to their own devices on the job or a group of students working on a school project without some direction. In some cases, this is exactly how it goes, and those of you that have experienced it know how frustrating it can be. If no one else takes charge, then the end result is a lack of productivity, loss of money/resources, and wasted time for everyone.
Being a leader without an official title helps in situations where leadership is unclear and can create opportunities for you to advance in your career. It can also help in social situations when someone needs to step up and make plans for an evening get together with friends. The following advice can teach you some things you need to know to take charge.
Leading By Example
As Sun Tzu said, “know yourself, or you will wallow in defeat.” Understand your role in the group or workplace before you try to lead anyone else. Leading by example is key when it comes to making meaningful connections with your team members. People are more likely to follow individuals who understand workplace protocol, approach tasks with a determined attitude, and have the patience to help others. Maintaining enthusiasm, positiveness, and a high level of energy also inspires others to give greater effort in their duties.
The Air Force’s Air University has a great list of leadership qualities that consistently show up in successful entrepreneurs and leaders. Remember that leadership is not a straight line path; many different kinds of leadership styles exist, and not all approaches will excel in a given environment. Try to determine how you can be a leader in your particular workplace.
Understanding Your Team
After you know yourself, you need to learn about your team. Getting to know what type of people you work with can help with motivation, conflict resolution, and cohesion. It can also contribute to forming organic relationships for career networking and develop friendships away from work.
Although it is too general to be wholly reliable, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can give you an idea of a person’s personality. The Big Five and DISC are two other tests that you can use to create potential profiles of your coworkers. While it is probably in bad taste to ask your coworkers to take these tests, you can look over the different classifications in each to get an idea of how they might think.
However, no amount of analytical testing can match face-to-face interaction. Spend time with your coworkers when you can. Have discussions and genuinely learn about the individual to understand them. Take it a step further and try to figure out ways they might interact with each other. Not everyone has to be friends to work together, but creating common ground and a mutual respect can make a huge difference in encouraging teamwork; this can also be applied outside of work to maintain social circles when conflict arises.
Understanding Your Limits as a Leader
These strategies assume that you’re interacting with people who are not your subordinates. Remember that you are not a shift lead or department head to any of these people. They follow you willfully, not out of obligation to protocol or rank. Overstepping your authority can and will create more problems than approaching as a coworker. Your leadership depends on your ability to be charismatic and persuasive, not use a superior position.
Also, understand that not everyone will respond to your attempts at leadership. This could be for several reasons; it could be that you took the wrong approach, but some people only react to legitimate authority or are struggling with personal problems that take precedence over work. Spend some time to reflect on how the failure happened, but do not let it consume you. Take it in stride, and motivate people where you can. Remaining emotionally stable is important as a leader; allowing something to eat at you will send out the wrong kind of signal.
Remember that leadership is difficult. Unless you take a leadership position, you are under no obligation to lead if you feel that it is not for you. But the benefits of taking charge are immensely valuable to yourself and others.