You’ve decided you want to take on a leadership role. Not something your boss asked you to do. And not something that’s strictly part of your job description.
Instead, you’ve discovered a task that needs to be done. A task that benefits your organization and serves your customer.
Something no one else is taking on but aligns with your strengths and passion.
It’s a great opportunity for you to lead. But it doesn’t come with any official authority. How will you get the job done?
Opportunities to Lead When You’re Not the Boss
There are lots of opportunities to lead without being in the management ranks or having position power.
- You can lead teams, special tasks or new technical initiatives
- You can explore new product or process ideas
- You can run an interest group or a cross-functional project.
Someone you don’t report to may ask you to lead an activity. Or you may just choose to head up an activity that aligns with your energetic center and the organization’s mission.
Positions in the management chain are scarce. So if you want to make an impact, the way to get leadership experience is to look for – or even create – these kinds of roles.
The challenge is that the people who can help you accomplish your task – the people you want on your team – don’t work for you. They’re not under your control. You don’t have authority over them.
And people put priority on what their bosses ask them to do. What you’re asking them to do is gonna be low on their priority list.
So how do you get people to recognize you as a leader? How do you get people to join your team? How do you get people engaged and eager to contribute?
Here’s the thing: Authority and position don’t automatically imply good leadership. You have to earn your good leader stripes whether or not you have authority or position.
And the way you earn your stripes is through learning and practice. Through trial and error. You don’t know all the best practices when you start out. You build skills as you gain experience.
You’re on a journey to becoming a good engineering leader.
How to Informally Influence Others to Follow Your Lead
A few insights may be helpful to you as you make this journey. Here are 3 ways to get people to recognize your leadership potential and inspire them to follow your lead:
- Use Other Sources of Authority
- Connection – your professional connections and influential relationships show that you’re well-networked. They highlight your leadership characteristics like trust and authenticity.
- Experience – your previous experience and your knowledge of the organization show competence and credibility. They give people confidence in your leadership ability and potential.
- Expertise – as an engineer you’re always growing your expertise. And this depth of knowledge can help those you lead and gain their respect for you.
- Align Purposes and Passions
Appeal to their strengths and passions. Show the potential impact of your project outcomes. And show how each person can have influence and make a contribution.
Emphasize the benefits to them. The returns on their investment, like:
- Visibility and collaborative connections
- Authorship or the potential for follow-up funding
- Experience that leads to advancement.
- Be In Charge
Take on the role of leader. Lead as if you do have the title. Instead of what’s under your control, focus on the impact you want to make.
Part of being in charge is serving your people through gratitude and respect. Being authentic and earning their trust.
Report back to their bosses on how they’re contributing to the project’s success. And voice your appreciation for their involvement and support.
People like that you know what you’re talking about. They want to see that you’re in charge and you own the project.
And they like to see that you care about them. That you appreciate their capabilities and efforts.
Your Chance to Grow Your Engineering Leadership Personality
Good for you for grabbing the opportunity and taking the lead. Challenges like this are a great way to propel your engineering career.
A quick reminder to get a copy of my guide “4 Steps to Start Commanding Greater Influence and Impact as a Woman Engineer.” It’s a quick read. It’s practical and impactful. And it’s free.
Next time on Her Engineering Career Podcast our topic is getting out of a bad job situation. How letting go of a bad job will boost your engineering career. Be sure to join me for Episode 99.