How to Lead Without Being a Manager

by David Alicea
How To Lead Without Being A Manager

Being a manager does not make you a leader. That’s it. That’s the blog for this month. Good night folks!

Seriously though, leading or being a leader is something that each and every person reading this has the ability to do. I don’t care if you’ve managed groups of dozens or have managed no one. It doesn’t matter if Manager, Director or President is not part of your title. It does not matter if those words even show up in your development or career path. You have an opportunity to lead in any position you have.

You are going to read about three of the many things you can do that can push you towards being a better leader. You do not have to wait until you land that role you are pursing as a manager to make a difference where you are.

Humility

In what feels like millions of meetings I’ve been a part of with teams and departments in my career, one thing I like to do is observe. There are people out there who might need to have their arms checked out because of the number of times they pat themselves on the back. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your accomplishments. You’ve gone the distance or climbed a mountain. Be proud, be excited, and let it propel you forward.

However, when that is the only thing you can talk about or when you are the one that creates the hurdles for others because they need to be on your level to move forward, then you are not showing good leadership. When someone is full of themselves, there is no room for anyone else. I’ve seen engineers, techs, and managers on both sides of this. Who have I learned from the most? It was not those who made me feel less than or those who couldn’t be bothered with simple questions. I learned the most from those quiet people who let their actions do the talking. There were those that knew giving me a hand and taking a few minutes out of their day to explain why A connects to B would make a bigger long-term difference than just taking over and doing something for me. Being humble does not mean being weak. I’ve interacted with many people, some quiet and some loud, but they’ve recognized that they wouldn’t be where they were right now if it was not for their team and mentors. That is where true strength and leadership qualities are, knowing you are simply a part of the solution and not the entire solution.

Sharing is Caring

I don’t know if you experience this, but I get excited when I’m learning something new. Especially if what I am learning is something I can immediately apply to practice. That is how I want others to feel as well. Putting the time in to study for a certification or a degree is not an easy task, but it is a fulfilling one. That is the way I feel right now going through Cisco’s SCOR material. It’s the same way I felt going through the CCNP Route/Switch a few years back.

It is great to be able to apply that knowledge, but it is even better to share it with others. I don’t know everything and never will know everything, but from what I do know, I want to share with my team. I might benefit greatly knowing a certain subject matter, but I’ll benefit as well if others on the team know it too. I’ve always said being a vault doesn’t help anyone. As a leader, you want others to excel, not just yourself. Others do need to do their part when it comes to learning, but as a leader sharing what you’ve learned and helping guide others is part of the journey. In the end, it will be up to them. I appreciate those who have spent time with me, motivated me to pursue certifications, or taken the time out to just show me something new. It helps me greatly, so I do the same for others.

Listening

As a parent I’ve told my kids to “listen” probably hundreds of times. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.  I know they heard me, but were they listening? They are kids and they are learning, so that is going to take a while. However, the same goes as a parent. When something worries my kids and they have concerns, I need to take the time and listen. I need to acknowledge them and their concerns. There is a difference between hearing and listening. Listening leads to action. Listening leads to change.

The same applies to leadership. Leaders need to listen. When you are really listening to someone’s concerns, you want and have the desire to help them. You seek to improve things because when you listen, you have a better chance of understanding what their needs are. Simply hearing what is going on is not enough. You are busy, but taking the time out to ask someone how they are doing and what you can do to help makes a difference in others. People appreciate it.

By listening, you can discover something you didn’t know about someone. You can discover strengths that someone might have which can lead to greater opportunities. You can discover weaknesses that you might have advice on how to help. Make the time for others. We are all in this journey together.

You do not have to wait until you have a certain title to lead. No one needs to send you a certification for it. There are no monthly fees. There are no age requirements. You can be a leader where you are today.  You can make a positive difference in others on your team as well as those outside of it. I believe humility is a good foundation to build a great leadership profile upon. It makes you approachable. It makes others comfortable. You then have plenty of opportunities to teach and listen. If we all act like leaders, we can make a huge difference in our organizations.

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