How To Lead Powerfully Without Being The Leader

By Robert Kennedy III

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I read a really neat article this morning about relationships. While I write a lot about business relationships rather than personal or romantic, the article that I happened to be reading was about a man and woman. This couple was in a long distance relationship and the woman wrote in to an advice columnist asking the question, “How do I let him know what I need without sounding needy?”

The columnist had a GREAT response. He wrote that “neediness is a state of mind where you need something from another person or you won’t be OK.

WOW!! It’s simply a state of mind. It’s not what the other person is thinking. It’s what you have CREATED IN YOUR MIND that they might be thinking.

How often have you been in a situation where you chose not to do something because you didn’t want to APPEAR or come off a certain way?

I don’t want to ask this question because they might think that I’m trying to take over.

I don’t want to say anything because they would use it as ammo against me later on.

I don’t want the leader to feel slighted.

I don’t want it to look like I’m angling for their job.

I don’t want anyone to think that I’m a suck-up.

Have you thought or said any of these things to yourself? Well, then you’ve subscribed to the story. These things may or may not be true. But, they are rarely the truth in your head. Subscribing to these stories takes the power out of your hands. I’m not taking about dictatorial power. I’m talking about personal power. When you have a loss of personal power, you change your direction before the action even begins. You lose out on opportunities and possibilities.

But, to be honest, there ARE cases where people think that you are trying to take over or that you are angling for something.

A big reason for that is what you are giving off. You don’t show up powerfully. You have not shown up as if it is simply your intent to be a contribution. You have not shown up in a way that simply says, “Look, my goal is to help all of us achieve results!”

If you think that in your head but that’s not what they see, then something is broken…SOMEWHERE!

So, then the question is, “How do I contribute ideas, make things happen, without being the leader and making others feel that I am selfishly trying to taking over?”

1. Don’t assume what the leader is thinking. Ask them their thoughts.

Find out what results they want to achieve. Ask about the key deliverables or their vision of success for the project or the job that is being completed. As an aside, depending on the leader, it might be helpful to do this privately first rather than in a meeting.

2. Don’t complain. Solve.

Most people have a knack for seeing what’s wrong and then simply talking about it. Leaders have many things that they are trying to figure out. So, if there is a gap and you can bring a possible solution for the gap, that does a couple of things. First, it allows you to be seen as an action taker and a solutions oriented person rather than simply a whiner. Second, it shows that you are willing to be a PART of the result rather than simply deferring responsibility.

3. Ask permission to lead.

If you have a solution, then it’s even more powerful if you can ask permission to take the lead on it. This is simply an act of respect. Leadership, good or bad, deserves respect and it shows that you are willing to submit to relationships. If you have too much on your plate, then find a champion that you trust, share the idea and then both of you can approach the leader with the offer and the solution. Again, you are not sitting around waiting for things to come to you. You are putting on your walking shoes and going to the problem.

4. Be vocal but supportive.

There are people who work quietly in the background that are POWERHOUSES. But the reality is that we hear those who speak. If your speech is strong, empowering and can provide a solution, you will garner an audience. If your speech includes tearing down the current leader in even a slight way, this automatically erodes whatever goodwill you have. Even if people act as if they like what you have to say at first, tearing others down inserts a seed of distrust that always re-appears…usually when you are not expecting it.

5. Don’t take anything personally.

Yes, there are people in this world who are cutthroat, ruthless and malicious. But, most people aren’t like that. If they dislike or disagree with your idea, it is usually some form of self preservation. They don’t want to put in the work. They don’t want you to get the credit. They don’t want to change what they are currently doing. They prefer complaining to progress. Things are moving too fast for them. They don’t have the communication skills to fully explain what they are thinking so they are frustrated. All of this doesn’t indicate that they hate you and you are a bad person. It is reflective of THEM and their personal issues. So, do not take it personally. Recognize that ideas are just that…ideas. They can catch on or not. They can work, or not. People will like them, or not! But, the more that you show that you are interested in intentionally being a contribution, the more powerful you become. Most leaders absolutely LOVE to have people on their teams who make the JOB of leadership easier because they are leaders themselves, leaders who care about completion more than they care about credit.

Are you ready to be powerful? Are you ready to LEAD even if you aren’t the leader?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.