Leading without a formal title or “official” leadership position can be a challenge. It can even be frustrating at times. A big source of that frustration comes from thinking we are somehow “better” than the person we report to. You know who I mean…. “The Boss!”
Being “better” can mean several things, more skilled or more experienced are two examples that come to mind but in most cases being better simply means we think we’re smarter than the person above us.
I used to work for a guy that I knew for certain I was smarter than. His name was Cecil. He didn’t even graduate from High School and I had a brand spanking new degree. He was dumb and I pretty much knew it all…..or so I thought.
I made it my mission to prove how much smarter I was. Every chance I got I pointed out his shortcomings, his weaknesses, to anyone who would listen. Actually, even if they wouldn’t listen, I told them anyway.
It took a long time for me to figure out that I may have learned more than him in school but I certainly wasn’t smarter than he was. I needed a whole lot more “seasoning” to learn the important lessons in life. They were the kind of lessons that you didn’t learn in school, the kind of lessons that made Cecil a success.
Over time I learned that if I wanted to lead from where I was in an organization, without a title or position, I needed to stop pointing out “gaps” in the people above me and start filling them. That’s called “leading up.”
Following a leader with gaps can only cause you frustration if you allow it to. That’s what most people do but you don’t need to be that type of person. If you truly want to lead in your organization, without waiting for a promotion or important sounding title, then following a leader who has gaps should give you a purpose.
As a leader from the middle of your organization you should be working to identify other leader’s gaps and working to fill them. Make it your purpose to help them focus on their strengths by using your strengths to assist them with an area where they may be weaker.
You need to know that you may not always get the recognition you deserve for filling in the gaps. Other people, even the boss, may attempt to take credit for your work. Don’t let any of that matter, just know this: Authentic leaders do what’s right for the simple reason that it is the right thing to do.
Authentic leaders work to strengthen their organization any way they can and they know that pointing out the weaknesses of other leaders in their organization does not strengthen it. If you’ve identified an area where your leader may need some help then by all means, by any means and by every means possible, HELP.
If you keep your focus on helping others be better you’ll never become frustrated because you think you’re better than them. You’ll just be happy you had the ability to help.