Demonstrating Leadership If You’re Not the Boss

Susan Hall

The recruiters I talk to say that when experienced IT pros interview, they want to hear about what those pros have accomplished: what they’ve built, saved, achieved.

Startups, by some accounts, are winning the talent wars by giving even inexperienced workers big responsibilities right off the bat. Organizations want to see evidence of leadership.

But how do you as an employee demonstrate leadership if you’re not the boss? A post at Harvard Business Review offers suggestions.

According to authors Gary Hamel and Polly LaBarre:

In order to engage in a conversation about leadership, you have to assume you have no power — that you aren't "in charge" of anything and that you can't sanction those who are unwilling to do your bidding. If, given this starting point, you can mobilize others and accomplish amazing things, then you're a leader. If you can't, well then, you're a bureaucrat.

Among the traits of those who have this leadership capability, even if they’re not “in charge”:

  • They are seers – They have a vision of what could be.
  • They are connectors – They can see the possibilities among people, ideas and organizations.
  • They are mentors – Rather than hoarding power, they like to spread it around.
  • They are bushwhackers – they can whack through the tangles of bureaucracy to clear a path for new ideas – and boy, don’t we need that!

Write the authors:

Critically, all these roles are rooted in the most potent and admirable human qualities — passion, curiosity, compassion, daring, generosity, accountability and grit. These are the qualities that attract allies and amplify accomplishments.

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