Becoming a Leader Without Having a Leadership Title

This is a topic that I’ve often been asked about and is something that sparks my attention.

How does one become a leader without having a leadership title? Why would you try to be an influencer if you’re not a manager or director or C-Level? Those are some of the limiting questions I used to have, but I’ve quickly realized in my few years in the tech industry that it doesn’t only take the job title to lead, but it takes the right person with the right leadership traits. Oh, and by the way, these traits can be learned #Bonus

Let’s start off with what I look for in a leader. First off, I strongly believe that for someone to motivate me, they need to be respectful to others and show gratitude. Here’s one of my quotes that I refer to once in a while.

The Dalai Lama once said, “when you practice gratefulness, there is a sense of respect for others.”

One of the things I look for is how ‘leaders’ treat others on their team. Equality is always something to look for, but it’s much more than that. When leaders show respect, they are given respect. It’s all about reciprocity (and some would argue good karma). I specifically look for their honesty with those team members. Transparency is key any team, and I always stress that fact with any team that I’ve joined.

How can you become a leader without having that leadership title? The answer is easy, but the journey can sometimes be tough. There is one factor here that, I believe, is a make it or break it, and that factor is TRUST. If you don’t have the trust of the people around you, you can never be seen as a leader. Take a look at the leaders that we see nowadays. People like Elon Musk of Tesla, or Sundar Pichai of Google, or Chuck Robbins of Cisco. These companies are seen as the innovators of the century, and the leaders of these companies have some of the most loyal employees across the globe. Why? Because their employees wholeheartedly trust them to make the right moves.

Let’s narrow that down to a team of 10 people. To be the leader, you need to ensure all members trust you, maybe not wholeheartedly, but trust you enough to know that you’re taking them in the right direction. Maybe it’s speaking out when no one else is saying anything, or being the first one to say good morning, or showing them the ropes at a new tool or software. These all seem like simple tasks, but they are very important when trying to gain someone else’s trust.

Here are a few pointers on how to become a leader within your peer team:

1) BE NICE– I cannot stress this enough. Society thinks you need to be an a**hole to be a leader. No, you do not! If you treat people with respect, you will be treated the same way. Of course, a leader is tasked with making tough decisions, but that doesn’t make them an a**hole, it makes them transparent. They are the leader because they need to make those tough decisions sometimes. Be nice to those around you, and at the same time be transparent. Don’t be **!

2) Lift Others– Even if you may not be the team lead or manager, make sure you lift others around you. This can motivate that individual to outperform themselves in a way they never thought they could. This is a great way to show your leadership skills, and also a way for you to learn a thing or two. By lifting other spirts on your team, you will be the go-to person when the team needs a little ‘pump-up.’ If the manager doesn’t do a great job motivating the team, BE THE CHANGE and do it yourself!

3) FIND. A. MENTOR– No, you don’t know everything 🙂 Neither do I, which is why I have 8+ mentors at any given time. I have people that I learn from; some possess the same personality traits as me, and some are the complete opposite of me. I have mentors because I mirror their traits and skills, and add my own little flavor to them. To eventually become a great leader, why not have a roster of different leadership personalities at your fingertips? This can also help you when leading someone who has a completely different than you.

So, to end this off, I will say this. To be a leader, you must have a leader. Someone you can learn from, someone you can mirror and someone you can trust to lead you in the right direction. Whether you’re leading a team, or whether you’re on a team, you can still lead with a purpose and an outcome in mind. Find a mentor that can help you articulate your leadership traits and skills. If you need any help, I’m happy to connect you with someone in my network that’s willing to help!

Shiv Rad.