How To Be A Leader When You Are Not Yet A Leader

Most people mistake leadership for a position. It isn't. Leadership is shown by action, not authority or designation. Here's how...

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Rajesh had a terrible opinion about his boss. He would go on and on about how bad things are, how pathetic the boss is who doesn’t even understand such basic things.

This was always followed by if I were the boss I would do this, I would do that, I would never allow this, and so on.

Rajesh was never promoted so he continued to complain and moan about what he could have done.

Rajesh was missing a fundamental point. 

You don’t need an official leader to demonstrate leadership skills. In fact, Rajesh was clearly showing what a pathetic leader he would have been being he to be promoted.

In this article, I will show you how to demonstrate leadership skills. You can do that with no official position at all.

And here’s my prediction. If you are not in leadership yet but if you consistently practice these habits it is just a matter of time before you are officially a leader. And, more importantly, you will be a splendidly successful one.

1. Say it then and there. 

A team meets. Things are discussed. The boss conveys decisions and asks for consent. Everyone agrees. Once out of the meeting, some member starts criticizing the decision and describes vividly how absurd it is and why it won’t work. This is called passive-aggression and highly inappropriate. If you disagree, say it right there. If the setup is not right (the customer was present, boss’ boss also there) then speak in private. Voice your opinions in the right place.

2. Fact versus opinion

There’s a thin line between facts and opinions. Facts are right or wrong. If I say Modi is the President of India. I am wrong. If someone says Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system, she is right.

Opinions, on the other hand, are not right or wrong. They are just different. If you think MS Dhoni is the greatest Indian cricketer and I reckon it is Sachin Tendulkar, those are opinions.

If you think having these features in a product will help us sell more whereas I think it won’t help, those are our opinions.

In all your interactions remember to differentiate between facts and opinions. Most people make the mistake of judging opinions as right or wrong. There’s no right or wrong opinion. It’s my opinion and your opinion. Respect that.

3. Be generous, not selfless

Generous is giving someone a 1000 rupees as help. Selfless is giving them a kidney. Generous is where you help someone but without damaging yourself.

Help people in such a way that it doesn’t pinch you. You should be able to move on even if there is no reciprocation or even an expression of gratitude,. ‘Neki kar, dariya mein daal’.

If you are selfless and there is no acknowledgment, you could soon become disillusioned and not want to help anyone at all. 

Before the airplane takes off, the stewards explain that in case of an emergency we need to fix our oxygen mask first and only then try to help others. Me first, others later. This applies everywhere.

Complete your work first before offering to help others. Of course, once you are done with your part, be very generous towards others.

Siddharth Rajesekar asks us to donate 10% of our income every month, not 100%. And he definitely doesn’t ask us to take a loan to donate!

4. Network with people

It is no good if you connect with past friends and colleagues only when you want to change jobs or have business needs. The networking seeds need to be sown much earlier. And the watering has to be on-going.

It doesn’t take a lot to stay connected with people. A WhatsApp message here, a phone call there is all it takes. Dedicate at least 20 minutes every day to networking. A must-do.

5. Know your Big Purpose

We all know this story. A person visits a construction site and enquires two bricklayers what they do. The first one says I lay bricks. The second one says I am building a beautiful home for happy families.

Who do you think is the potential leader here?

If you are a sales rep for a pharma company, a bigger purpose would be you cure diseases. Or save lives. If you are a call center employee for a DTH service provider, you are helping families bond by watching the IPL or movies together. As a website designer, you are building the online showroom for someone who is fulfilling a life long dream of starting a new business. 

Don’t think of yourself as someone who needs to do a set of tasks and get money in return. You are certainly more than that. Work out what your Big Purpose is.

6. Be outstanding at what you

Nobody respects someone who doesn’t do a good job. Earn that respect.


BONUS TIP – Execute an assignment for a voluntary organization

A voluntary organization is one where people have, as the name suggests, joined voluntarily. They have no obligations and can refuse to work or walk away with ease. 

It is much easier to get work done from employees and vendors. After all, they are getting paid for it. 

I am a co-founder of PUNE RUNNING, India’s largest running community. We have 26 sub-groups across the city run by volunteers. Every month we organize a marathon in different parts of the city with an average turnout of about 2000 runners. Each time it is hosted by a different sub-group. They have a team – A Race Director at the top and Core Team Members heading various teams with members assigned to them.

Everyone from the top to bottom is a volunteer.

They work hard, they face major challenges, they disagree, they reconcile, they innovate, they are stretched, there is a huge pressure. Always.

This marathon is being organized every month for the last 9 years. Each one has been a roaring success. The usual feedback from the team members is, this one month of work has given us ten years of leadership experience.

If you succeed at getting work done in a voluntary setup where no one is obliged to listen to you, you will easily succeed in a professional setup.

Leadership Skills are applicable in all walks of life. Strive to be an influencer and not an authority. When you begin to influence people with your personality, formal authority is just a matter of time.

“The best leaders lead like they’re not in charge even when they are.” – Clay Scroggins

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  1. Hello Sudhindhra
    It’s really thought orivoking blog. To be a leader is easy , to be an effective leader is not everyones cup of tea

  2. Very well written. All points explained in details. simple language and everyday examples appreciated. Thank you.

  3. Great, Sudhi. I know, as I have observed in our enriching association, you are a very cool guy even in a hot, demanding environment. Your skill and experience have come across lucidly in this piece. Looking forward to many more.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. The best part was facts and opinions. Sometimes people try to force there opinions on others which limits the way they think and in the process also try to limit the other person’s way of thinking.

    Great insights????

  5. Loved reading you blog and you have outlined some really good ways to develop yourself as a leader. Number 5 – Know your Big Purpsoe is so important. Thanks Sudhindra!

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