You don’t have to be in a formal leadership role to be a leader, because leadership is not an assignment so much as it is a state of mind and a practice.
Have you ever heard the phrase natural leadership ability? While I think it’s true that some people may have a personality that is well suited for a leadership role due to an outgoing, confidently-spoken nature, I also think that each of us has an innate leadership ability just waiting to be activated. Through a few changes in thinking and regular practice, we can all learn for ourselves what it means to be an individual leader. Now, you may already be wondering why you should take on leadership responsibilities in any form unless you’re going to be compensated to do so. Or, that leadership responsibility’s not within the scope of your job. You could also be thinking if you step up to leadership that someone may be disapproving and lose respect for you.
I want to dispel some of this thinking for you. If you’re worried about compensation or if you’re allowing yourself to be stuck in it’s-not-my-job thinking then you’re probably not focusing on the right thing. That may step on a few toes, but think it over and I hope you’ll agree. We’ve all heard the phrase “money can’t buy happiness” and if you’ve lived very long then you know it’s mostly true; money is not the answer to everything. When we spend so much of our time at work, shouldn’t we be satisfied with what we do on a daily basis? Maybe even proud of the work that we’ve done at the end of each day? Shouldn’t we be happy at work?
Being concerned that someone may disapprove of the decision to step up and take responsibility is somewhat valid. I say somewhat because, as the decision to lead is being considered, I do think it’s important to determine who or what may be impacted by the action. One suggestion to alleviate this concern is to run it by your teammates, or even your supervisor, before taking on the task. Let them know you’ve been thinking about taking the lead on the task to take some pressure off the rest of the team and ask for their feedback. On the other hand, I do think that most of the time it’s safe to be bold and step up and take the reins. Taking on temporary additional responsibilities for the benefit of your team is practically never a bad decision.
Most of you know by now that I work for the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services, in State Personnel as part of the Training and Development team. Our team is small, there are just four permanent employees and one temporary employee. We don’t have a department administrative assistant so when those duties that would normally be assigned to an assistant are in need of being completed someone else within the team has to step up to take care of those duties. Each of us has taken responsibility for some of that work, even though no one asked us to do so. In doing we are making a difference for the entire team.
Taking on a leadership role doesn’t mean that you’re stepping in and usurping the power of your supervisor or manager. It means that you’re stepping up into greater confidence and to greater individual responsibility, even if temporarily. It means that you’re willing to tackle a need that your team is experiencing because you know that you are uniquely qualified to handle that particular need. Which of us, at the end of the day, doesn’t like the thought that we made a difference for our team?
Lisa Menke is a GovLoop Featured Contributor. She is a digital media developer who is passionate about the intersection where opportunities for professional growth and participatory culture meet. As a training specialist for the State of Nebraska, Lisa is currently responsible for the creation of digital media in support of agency training & development, and communications. Read her posts here.