I was reminded recently of something I absolutely love seeing. It’s that whole “leading without a title” thing. It’s one of the first things I think young professionals, or any professionals for that matter, should consider if they want to be a manager or executive. In what ways are you already leading? Who are you already leading? Why do you want to lead? What is it that you want to do that you think you need a title to do? (I’m not saying there aren’t legit answers to that question–there are.)
It’s exciting when you see people who are essentially leading on accident. And by people leading on accident, I mean they’re so excited and passionate about what they’re doing that they lead projects and people without really even thinking about it. They don’t have to start leading because they’re already leading. Their leadership is an outgrowth of who they are.
They see something that needs done, so they figure out how to get it done. They see someone who needs a little help getting better at something, so they come alongside them and give them a hand. They may not have a title. They may not have an officially sanctioned project. They may not have a corporate mandate. They may not have a fancy office. They just have a desire to serve and lead. So they do.
What got me thinking about this again recently was a person with whom I have the privilege of working. In what had to be one of the easiest promotion decisions ever, this person was “officially” recognized as what she clearly already was–a leader. The title was just a lagging indicator of who she already was and what she was already doing. And that’s how it should be.
(A brief aside for leaders: We’ve got to do a better job of looking for folks throughout our organizations who are already leading. We’ve got to find them, help them, push them, develop them, and create space for them to grow as leaders.)
So you want to be a manager/executive/leader-type-person? Just lead. The titles will take care of themselves.