Five Keys to Leading When You’re Not the Leader

Elizabeth Rider
Five Keys to Leading When You’re Not the Leader

One of the biggest myths I’ve seen in leadership is this: the people with titles are the best leaders.

The truth is, you don’t have to be the one calling the shots in order to lead your team. Your credit union or community bank needs leaders now more than ever.

As John Maxwell said, “Everyone is a leader, because everyone influences someone.”

It may be difficult to think about having influence when you’re not “the leader,” so keep reading.

Here are the wrong answers to leading when you’re not the leader.

  • Work more overtime. And give less than your best at home and at work because you’re completely spent? Try again.
  • Take initiative. Friends, leaders are not third graders trying to impress the teacher.
  • Copy everyone on emails. Humility goes a long way, and getting your “encouraging” words in front of the boss is the opposite of humility.

None of the above are bad things, but do you see the common denominator? They all make YOU look good.

The point of leadership is not to make yourself look good. The point of leadership—whether you’re toward the top of the org chart or not—is to take the organization where it needs to go and build others up along the way. In different words, how can you make others look good?

Here are five keys to leading when you’re not the one in charge.

1. See the opportunity, not the problem.

Listen during team meetings. What’s not going well for your members or fellow staff? That’s an opportunity for you to serve or provide possible solutions. The more you stay positive, the more your team will stay positive, and the more they’ll get done.

2. Find out where people want to go.

…And then help them get there. Don’t just think within a professional sense either. Does your coworker want to run a marathon? Start a progress chart in the breakroom. Does your boss’ family want to adopt? Make t-shirts to help with fundraising.

The more people take steps to achieve goals outside of work, the more they’ll take steps to achieve the strategic goals at your credit union or community bank.

3. Track metrics.

Always know what success is going to look like for any project. Understand why the organization is pursuing a goal and how people are going to measure it.

Keeping tabs on the actual success of a project—not just the “feel good” success—will protect your credit union or community bank from unprofitable endeavors. Forbes says tracking will be even more critical in work from home settings.

4. Create a “could be better” list.

Teams often get lost talking about what they’d change in the organization. Processes, wait times, the coffee in the lobby—you name it, someone is going to want to improve it.

Instead of wasting time discussing those things (without taking any action on them) create a “could be better” list. If one of the items for improvement aligns with the strategic plan, take it off the list and make it an action item. Revisit the list once a month to see where there’s room for improvement.

5. View everyone as giants.

Leaders trust their people. They believe the best in them, no matter how different they may be. If someone on your team is struggling to meet expectations, find out what’s going on and what you can do to help.

Bonus tip: ask for leadership training. You don’t have to be officially in the C-Suite to go through a leadership training program. You can grow your influence right where you are.

Elizabeth Rider
Chief of Staff
Elizabeth Rider
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