5 Unbelievably Bold Practices Great Leaders Employ When They’re Not the Ultimate Authority – Is this You?

I get it, you’re not the final authority. In my current role, neither am I. This means I don’t have...
10 min read

I get it, you’re not the final authority. In my current role, neither am I. This means I don’t have the final say on mission, vision, or the operation of the business. However, I am a leader and so are you.

Regardless of title or office size, you have influence over peers, coworkers, and even your boss. Simply put – you can be a world-class leader even if you aren’t calling the shots.

We do a lot of work with CEOs and C-Suite executives, but we also work with plenty of regional leaders, middle managers, and divisional VP’s. In fact, we really enjoy this space because we get to offer practical solutions to ground-level issues. As we’ve done this work, we’ve identified five actions that, if executed well, provide a great framework for leading when you aren’t in charge.

We call them Five Markers for Leading from the Middle, and they work for any business. Check them out below:

1. Lead by Example:

Great leaders recognize the power of setting an example through their actions. When they lack the highest authority, they don’t let that stop them from living out the values and work ethic they wish to see in their team. Leading by example fosters a positive work culture and motivates others to follow suit.

Your influence will grow as you continue to live with integrity, accountability, and dedication. Whether it’s arriving early, going the extra mile on a project, or displaying a positive attitude during challenging times, leading by example blazes a trail for others to follow.

2. Build Strong Relationships:

Exceptional leaders understand that relationships are the currency of influence. Even without holding the ultimate authority, you can invest time and effort in building strong connections with your team members, colleagues, and superiors. By fostering open communication and trust, you can create an environment where ideas flow freely and collaboration thrives.

Building relationships extends beyond the immediate team; great leaders network horizontally and vertically within the organization. If you seek to understand the perspectives of others, listen actively, and empathize with different viewpoints, your influence and leadership will grow.

Many leaders try to exert influence by authority rather than relationship, but this only works if you are the boss (and even then it doesn’t work that well.) For the rest of us who aren’t in charge – relationship gives us the opportunity to influence others and help them navigate change regardless of our formal job title.

Dr. Ben Redmond
3. Empower and Elevate Others:

A hallmark of great leadership is the ability to empower and elevate those around them. You can still make a significant impact right where you are by recognizing and nurturing the potential in your fellow team members. Ask yourself this question: How can you actively support the development and growth of the people around you? Great leaders do that regardless of their position in the organization.

When you focus on empowerment, you help create a collaborative and innovative culture. Success is a team sport, and your success has as much to do with the people around you as it does with the people above you. If you commit to enabling others to shine, you will help create that culture of shared achievement, where each team member feels valued and motivated to contribute their best.

4. Adaptability and Resilience:

Leadership in the absence of ultimate authority requires adaptability and resilience. Since you aren’t the boss, you will have to navigate change that wasn’t your idea. In order to lead without being in charge, you have to learn how to embrace and champion change rather than resisting it.

In a dynamic work environment, your ability to stay flexible and positive makes you invaluable to the culture. If your boss believes that you have the ability to handle change and lead the way for others, they will trust you with other leadership opportunities. This idea of adaptability applies to more than just change – it extends to learning new skills, staying informed about industry trends, and proactively seeking solutions to emerging challenges.

5. Advocate for a Shared Vision:

Even without holding the ultimate authority, great leaders champion a shared vision that aligns with the organization’s goals. They articulate a compelling narrative that resonates with their team and colleagues, inspiring a collective sense of purpose. Through effective communication, they ensure everyone understands the larger mission and their role in achieving it.

If you aren’t the boss, then your chief leadership responsibility is alignment. Please don’t miss this point – great leaders facilitate a sense of unity and direction even when they don’t have the formal authority. A great way to measure your current leadership is to ask: “Are my actions aligned with our company vision in a way that helps us get there?” This applies to everything from the way we use our time to the conversations we have with others in the hallway. Everything you do should be creating stronger alignment. Leaders who do this are having lasting impact on the company, regardless of their job title.

Leadership is more than title, position, or paycheck. Great leaders are influencing others and shaping culture. The good news for all of us is that we have the opportunity to become impactful leaders by focusing on these 5 actions. Set aside some time this week to rate yourself on each of these actions and identify opportunities for improvement.