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Home » Business Owners

How to lead when you’re not the boss…


As organisations become flatter, people may be leading teams where they have no formal authority.

In a recent article on Harvard Management Essentials, Christina Bielaszka-DuVernay summarises the five steps to leading when you’re not the boss:

1. Establish goals

People perform their best when they have a clear set of objectives. It follows that the group’s first task is to write down exactly what it hopes to avheive. The person who asks “Can we start by clarifying our goals?” – then assumes the lead in discussing and drafting those goals – is automatically taking a leadership role, whatever thier position.

2. Think Systematically

Most people plunge straight into the topic at hand and start discussing what to do. Effective leaders learn to think systematically. They gather and layout the necessary data, and analyse the causes of the situation, proposing actions based on this analysis. In this situation, leaders help keep focusby asking appropriate questions. “Do we have everything we need to analyse this situation?”

3. Learn from experience – when it’s happening

Teams often plow ahead, then conduct a review at the end to understand what they’ve learn’t. However, it’s more effective for the teams (or individuals) to learn as they go along. Anyone who prompts the group to engage in the regular mini reviews and learn from them is playing a defacto leadership role.

4. Engage Others

Suggest writing down a list of chores and matching them up with individuals. If no one wants to take on a particular task, try brainstorming ways to make the task more desireable or more interesting. Make a point of asking individuals who have not contributed for their thoughts and ideas.

5. Provide Feedback

Even if you’re not the boss you can provide feedback by simply saying “I thought you made a great comment about XXX”. Sometimes you can take this further by helping people through coaching. Offer suggestions for improvement, but take time to explain the observation and the impact that it has”.

You can read the full article by clicking here Harvard Business Essentials.