In the previous article, we explored how you may use your time from the day you land your first job till the day you start work, and why you should start thinking of yourself as an employee from the moment you accept the offer.
Today, we will delve into how to be influential without holding formal authority in the workplace.
So, now, it is a reality -- you are an employee and your first day at work is no longer a distant dream.
In the book The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins said, “The president gets 100 days to prove himself – you get 90.” I quite agree. However, since it’s the first job, I would extend it to 90 days or to probably 120 days, or maybe even a bit more.
You are new to the corporate world. You may still be a fresher without a team of people reporting to you. You might wonder -- how can I lead when I have no formal authority to lead?
You are not wrong, but a growing number of companies are recognising that leadership is not always based on a position of power. A true leader can be anyone who decides to lead irrespective of their position; influence their peers, juniors and even seniors; and steer a group of people to accomplish their goals. Hierarchical organisations will soon be a concept of the past. Today’s business organisations are often flat and follow a matrix structure.
In simple terms, you are expected to ‘be a leader without being a boss.’
Here are 10 tips that will help you stand out from your colleagues.
- Demonstrate thought leadership - Everyone admires colleagues who come up with new ideas. You naturally become a leader when you show cognitive superiority over a group’s collective understanding. A thought leader provides energy to the team through their innovative ideas or ways to accomplish a task. People look up to them for solutions. Start nurturing this trait, and you can over time gain confidence to stand up and demonstrate this quality.
- Resolve conflicts - Conflicts are part of corporate life and will be there in all groups, large or small. There will be an outpouring of different emotions, but a leader will channel these emotions into fact-based positive actions. A leader needs to understand the root cause of a conflict and guide the team towards a solution.
- Facilitate decision-making – You are still new to the corporate world and new to your role. But that does not mean you cannot help in making decisions or suggest a way forward. A leader is someone who is not afraid to make decisions. You will gain prominence when you show this quality.
- Help set clear goals and accountability – A team with a clear goal achieves better measurable results than one with ambiguous targets. You will often find this element missing in groups. Help your team set clear goals and milestones so that all team members are accountable.
- Help create a participatory environment - A culture that collaborates and co-creates is always more effective. A person who can promote this culture will automatically be accepted as a leader. To lead when one has not been designated a leader, one needs to foster a culture where everyone is heard and every opinion is counted. The very culture of openness can transform ordinary teams to deliver extraordinary results.
- Establish governance for commitment - You can’t win alone; you need the help of others. Others need you to win too. A good way to help team members stay committed is by establishing the governance mechanism. Help the team to get into routine, structured meetings and reviews. This will encourage team members to stick to their commitments collectively and deliver great results. You can be the one to stitch this together.
- Demonstrate your ability to listen and appreciate – It’s a challenge to find people with good listening skills. Be a good listener from day one, and many of your colleagues, even seniors, will start confiding in you. This will help you understand other points of view and appreciate them.
- Challenge when needed – A leader needs to stand up for themselves and for their team. Be honest; be true to yourself and to the organisation; be ready to challenge and be challenged. Preparing for an interaction is one of the ways to be confident and master this trait.
- Develop a mindset to help others – Everyone appreciates newcomers who can think beyond themselves and are ready to pitch in. If someone succeeds with your help, that will rarely deny your own success. So, look for opportunities to help others succeed, and success will automatically come to you.
- Stay positive and show emotional maturity – It does not matter how long you have been in the corporate world, a positive mind with emotional maturity is the first step towards leadership. And there is no age for it. Every day won’t be the same. Some days will be smooth, some days will be tough. You will feel low and you will go through a crisis. When you show emotional resilience and stay positive even on those days, you will be naturally considered a leader.
It is all about starting to think and act like a leader from the day you step into the corporate world. It will need you to reset your mind for you to behave as a leader instead of being a follower.
But every organisation is different, everyone’s situation is different. What works for someone may not work for you, so evaluate before you adopt any of these tips.
In the next article, I will share tips on the mindset of critical thinking.
Partha Sarathi Basu has worked in leadership positions at Coca-Cola, Whirlpool, IFB group, Tata group, Spicejet and AkzoNobel. He is currently associated with a leading consulting firm apart from being a leadership coach. He is the author of five books based on his corporate and life experiences. A die-hard Calcuttan, he now lives in Amsterdam.