The old way of leading is dead. Many of our best known organizations have fallen and some of our most revered leaders have lost face. The global economy has now transformed and with all the new media ranging from Twitter to YouTube, everyone can now build a following and lead in their field.
We have just entered what I call "The Decade of Leadership". Leadership has become democratized. I'm not at all suggesting that we don't need titles and people at the top of the organizations to set vision, manage the team, and take overall responsibility for the ship. What I'm suggesting is that we now work and live in a world where leadership isn't just something executives do. It's something everyone needs to do for their organizations to survive, especially in this period of change.
For the past 15 years, I've had a simple mission that has become my obsession: to help people in organizations to lead without a title - and play at their best in all that they do. This mission has taken me into client companies like Nike, FedEx, GE, Panasonic, and Unilever where I've not only helped their best people grow even better, but learned what world-class teams and enterprises do to create "wow". This mission has allowed me to serve as the private leadership advisor to many billionaires and celebrity entrepreneurs. And, this calling has enabled me to meet people from every walk of life in every industry and learn what keeps them from stepping up to their leadership best when that's exactly who they're built to be.
I've distilled everything I've learned into a step-by-step formula that I've shared in my newest book, The Leader Who Had No Title: A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life (Simon and Schuster). Here are nine smart moves that you can make today to start changing the game and creating exceptional results:
1. Remember That You Don't Need A Title To Be A Leader
Leadership has less to do with the size of your title than the depth of your commitment. I've seen front-line employees, taxi drivers, and carpet installers doing their work with the passion of Picasso. Leadership isn't really about authority. It's about a choice you can make to do your best work each and every day, regardless of where you're planted.
2. Shift From Victimhood to Leadership
No great career, business, or life was ever created on a platform of excuses. Too many people play victim at work. They blame the boss or the economy or the competition or the weather for their less than mediocre results. Leaders Without a Title are different. They get that they have power: it may not be the power granted through a title like CEO or SVP. But they have power. And that's the power to see opportunity amid crises. That's the power to drive positive change. That's the power to encourage everyone on your team. And it's the power to step into the person you've always wanted to be.
3. Innovate Or Stagnate
To Lead Without a Title is to leave everything you touch better than you found it. Mediocrity happens when people refuse to change and improve all that they do. Look what happened to some of the big car companies when they slowed down their devotion to innovation. The competition ate them for breakfast and put some out of business. The best leaders and the best enterprises have a hunger to improve. It's such a deep part of their culture they know of no other way to be. And that's the edge that makes them great.
4. Become A Value Creator Versus A Clock Watcher
Success comes from the value you add rather than from the "busy-ness" you show. What's the point of being really busy around the wrong things? Leadership is a game of focus. Focus on fewer but smarter activities, the ones that create real value for your teammates, customers, and the world at large.
5. Put People First
"The business of business is people," said Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher. We have a ton of technology yet less and less humanity. Let's remember that people do business with people they like, trust, and respect. one of the clients we've done leadership development work with is RIM. Yes they're a fats and innovative technology company but they also get that excellent results come from people playing at excellence. So build your team. Meet your customers. Deepen human connections. Treat others with respect. And put people first.
6. Remember That Tough Times Build Strong Leaders
Look at any exceptional leader and you'll find that they stepped into their leadership best during a period of crises versus calmness. To Lead Without a Title is to hunt for opportunity amid every adversity. Every setback has the seeds of an opportunity. Companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon were built because their people leveraged disruptive times into brilliant wins and because their people refused to give up when faced with difficulty.
7. Go To Your Limits
The more you play out on the edges of your limits and take intelligent risks the wider your limits will expand. The more you leave your comfort zone, the bigger your comfort zone will grow. Each day at work, do the things you know you must do but are scared to do. That's how you grow, build your leadership capability and access more of the leader within you. There's zero safety in staying within what I call "The Safe Harbor of the Known". That's just an illusion that bankrupts too many businesses and breaks too many human beings.
8. Lead Yourself First
The Leader Who Had No Title isn't just a book showing you how to create exceptional business success and win at work, it's also a handbook for personal leadership because how can you lead other people if you haven't first done what it takes to lead yourself? Get to know your values. Think through what you want your life to stand for. Become physically, mentally, and emotionally strong and have a remarkable relationship with your family. What's the point of becoming super-successful yet being alone?
9. Give Back A Legacy
Success is good. Significance is even better. Sure profit and peer recognition and doing great work is mission-critical. But even more important that that is what you give - and all you leave behind. As I write in the book, "Even the longest life is pretty short. and all that matters when you get to your last day is the difference you've made and the people you've helped." So as you Lead Without a Title and step into your leadership best, stay focused on adding value and making an extraordinary contribution.