Sweet Potato


LEAD(RN)ING Without A Title

Let’s assume that you’re a safe pair of hands and get things done. Let’s assume that you don’t really worry about who gets the credit as long as the outcome is achieved. Finally, let’s assume that you know what your strengths and blind spots are and you’re not afraid to ask for help when needed. These are big assumptions that involve many other factors, including but not limited to the following: confidence in your ability, emotional intelligence, trust in your peers/managers, and a diverse team. For this blog’s sake, let’s say those factors are all true, and you have been entrusted with a large piece of work.

A large piece of work can be something along the lines of a big project, a program, a portfolio, or a P&L. From my perspective, such divisions are illusory so long as the strategic outcomes are clear. Anyway, you take on this work – as a freelancer or as a third-party consultant- which means you don’t have the title or positional power, but let’s say it makes it up financially. In the current corporate world, you start off on the back foot without a proper title, but hey, if it’s easy it ain’t fun, plus you’re getting a little bit more money.

But here’s the challenge which some of you might have faced…

        1. People whom you need to get the work done with won’t prioritise you, because you don’t have positional power.
        2. You can’t deliver on time because people don’t prioritise you.
        3. People who trusted you before don’t prioritise you either, because you haven’t yet delivered.

I am sure some of you have experienced this at some stage in your career. You possibly also thought that you should have declined the role without a proper job title, but you accepted it anyway because you thought the learnings and the value you could add from this opportunity will outweigh the lack of proper title. Guess what – most of the time you were right in accepting the role, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all going to be perfect right from the word go.

In my view, you just have to stick to the basics and that will take you a long way in adding value. I have listed the basics which I do.

– Show up every day in the right forums

– Identify the people with the right skills and right attitude

– Speak to them on a regular basis and LEARN from them

– Listen to them sincerely and read between the lines

– Distill ideas from those discussions

– Integrate ideas every second of your working day

– Find your biggest critique and run the integrated idea past them

If you do this day in and day out in the area you were hired, people will gain trust and give you more valuable projects. These projects in turn can be used to positively influence your team to work with you.

Now although these things may sound elementary, I think most of the current and previous leaders and C suite execs have achieved their successes by applying similar steps. Let me know if you have any other ideas or tips that you find helpful in leading/learning without a title.

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