How to Lead When You’re Not a Leader

5 min read
Zoe Brankin
Zoe Brankin

Leadership is a set of skills – not a shiny job title – and you don’t have to wait for a spot in the corner office before you start demonstrating that skill set.

In doing so, you widen your sphere of influence and get to instigate change, no matter where within the company org chart your role currently resides.  

Just remember – practice makes perfect.

The more you implement leadership skills, the more developed those skills will become.

This is excellent prep if – at some point in the future – you’d like a leadership job title to go with those well-honed leadership abilities.  

But even if you’re perfectly happy in a non-leadership role, a few leadership skills can help you change the workplace culture or simply smash those team targets out of the park.  

When you have the power to inspire and influence your colleagues, you make things happen.  

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Tips on how to lead a team when you’re not a leader

You don’t need to be a boss to influence your colleagues and your organisation. Here are a few ways to lead – even if you’re not a leader.

1. Volunteer ideas

Leaders come up with ideas. They don’t simply administer processes and systems. They’re on the lookout for ways to make things better.

So. analyse current ways of working—volunteer ideas to your colleagues and the leadership team. Be brave enough to speak up when something doesn’t sit right with you or the wider team.

Become a change-maker to create the change that you want to see.

2. Communicate clearly

What do all great leaders have in common? Excellent communication skills.

Leaders communicate clearly and transparently. They’re great at sharing a vision and encouraging colleagues to follow their lead.

They also understand that good communication is a two-way street; they’re prepared to listen just as much as they talk (if not more!).  

In distributed or remote teams, interaction requires a little more intentionality than in the office. You might like to schedule regular 1-to-1s or use employee engagement software like Mo.

Mo makes it easy for teams to connect and for leaders to start conversations daily.

3. Remind people of the bigger picture

We all like to feel that we’re making a difference, which is why people feel more invested in their work when they understand how their small piece of the puzzle fits into the bigger company picture.

If you can join the dots between potentially mundane daily activities and the wider business context, you help to motivate and empower team members.

4. Create a sense of belonging

According to MIT research, we crave belonging the same way we crave food when hungry. It’s a crucial part of positive human interaction.

To improve the wellbeing and engagement of your team, you should work to foster this feeling of togetherness.

You can do this in really simple ways.

By remembering moments that matter, such as your colleague’s birthdays or asking after their kids by name, giving everyone their chance to take the floor and offer an opinion, and including everyone in company communications.

5. Be values-driven

There’s no room for self-interest if you want to become an inspiring leader. Your decisions have to be based upon a clearly defined set of values.

When your teammates see you authentically sticking to these values and appreciating these values amongst your team, they’re much more likely to believe in your motivations.

6. Celebrate successes

A close team works and celebrates together. Celebrations are an excellent motivator for future hard work and team cohesion.

But you don’t need to go all out with confetti cannons and a fizz-stocked fridge.

Simple tried and tested team appreciation goes a long way. Leaders should elevate their team, highlight their efforts and let them take credit for their good work.  

7. Take time to grow

Some people have innate leadership ability, but even the best could use a few pointers. That’s why great leaders dedicate time to self-development.

It’s possible to improve a whole host of skills – including communication, conflict resolution, negotiation and decision making.

Take the time to develop your leadership skills through dedicated training, and you’ll find it easier to lead your team.

8. Demonstrate integrity

If your teammates are going to follow you, they have to trust in you. And they can only trust in you if you demonstrate integrity.

So own up to your mistakes. Don’t go in for water cooler gossip. Don’t play favourites. And make the conscious decision to lead by example.

9. Keep yourself grounded

The best leaders influence their teams from within – not from above.

You have to spend time communicating with your team to do that. You can’t impose a self-important distance if you want to garner trust and respect.

To take people along with you, listen to what they say and treat them as equals – not subordinates.

By grounding yourself in the work and interactions of your team, you become a much more convincing leader.  

10. Be consistent

The little things do make a big difference.

Remember team birthdays, volunteer great ideas, and demonstrate integrity; employee trust will grow along with your influence.

Want to become a better leader? Use Mo!

Leadership is all about relationship building. But it’s not always easy to fit meaningful team interaction into a busy work day – particularly if you’re managing or working remotely.

That’s where Mo can help.

Mo is an employee recognition and engagement platform that helps leaders improve collaboration and morale, reduce employee churn and drive change.

Our platform creates a vibrant culture by developing team habits, encouraging people to celebrate successes, recognise results and appreciate colleagues.

Great for any team. An absolute must-have for distributed teams. 

Your complete toolkit for connecting and motivating teams in the new world of work.

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