The real leadership shows when you are not the boss

Do you have a team of people working for you? Do you manage them? Do you provide direction, guidance? Do you get things done by working through them? Then you are a great manager, excellent boss and possibly also a leader. Now, imagine a company without fancy titles. Would you be still seen as a leader by your team? Sadly in many situations managers rely too much on their titles and thus don’t do what needs to be done to be seen and accepted as leaders. The real leadership shows when you are asked to get something done by utilizing a team that you have no direct reporting line to and when there is no obvious incentive for this team to work with you.

Working for you or working with you?

How do you prepare for such a situation? The best way is to build a leadership style that is based on a premise that people don’t work for you but they work with you. This requires a specific mindset, for example the one described in my previous post Coaching approach to leading people. You don’t direct people what to do, you just provide guidance, help and opportunities. When you get used to getting things done this way it is rather irrelevant whether the team that works with you reports to you or to someone else.

It is a typical job of a project manager to deliver a project while using a team of people who may not necessarily report to him. When I worked for a big multinational company with half a million employees worldwide I was plugged into the matrix organization. I lead a team of people working on numerous projects but I had no direct responsibility for delivering the project. I was just managing the people. At the same time to make it more interesting I was responsible for couple of projects and initiatives that required me to utilize people who didn’t report to me. The opportunity of being on both sides of the fence helped me to develop couple of habits that I use since.

It is your team

I believe you need to have a very simple mindset when working with others. You must consider them as part of your team. It doesn’t matter whether they report to you or someone else, it doesn’t matter that they might be your peers or even superiors. You should always see them as someone who deserves your attention and that you are here to help them succeed. And as a by-product the things gets done and you achieve your goal.

Show them vision

When marshaling your resources you need to provide a vision, a goal, a target. Something that needs to be achieved and that people in your virtual team should march towards. You may also want to show them what is in it for them. How they may grow and achieve their personal goals when working with you on a particular initiative.

Fight for them

It is your team! And that means that you fight for them. You are the spokesperson, the guardian and the person who needs to shield them from anything that may derail their effort. In fact, you may even need to step up and have a discussion with their boss if you feel they are not getting what they should from him.

Give them credit

Forget about sharing credit. Sharing credit doesn’t really work as sharing by definition means that you still keep part of it and that almost always translates to you being seen as the one who did the job. Don’t share, just give all the credit to the team! You are not particularly important, you are just the coordinator, the enabler, it is the team that did the work and they deserve the credit. When they don’t report to you make sure their managers know about the great job they did. And don’t stop there, remember, even if they don’t report to you they are your team! So you are responsible to ensuring they get the recognition they deserve.

Mentor them

Yes, they may work with you only for a short period of time but it doesn’t mean you should treat them as expendable resources. Again, they are your team and you are responsible for giving them opportunity to learn and to grow. You must provide feedback and mentorship. Why? Well, as the saying goes you always meet twice. If you provide real leadership and mentoring, if you help them to achieve their goals they will see you as a leader and will want to work with you in the future.

Build relationships

And this brings up to building relationships. You want to make sure you create rapport, you have a good working relationship with the team as you may need their help in future projects or initiatives. When you build a deep connection with people and they understand that they matter to you and that you care it is much easier for them to provide the help you will need to get the job done.

These basics should help you to build great teams both the ones reporting to you and virtual ones that span across the organization through numerous departments and seniority levels. And is there a dark side? Well, the worst thing that can happen is that you will find yourself in a position that everyone wants to not only work with you but also for you.

Twitter type summary: “The real leadership shows when you get things done utilizing a team that doesn’t report to you and has no incentive to work with you.”

What are your tips and tricks on how to get a job done when you need resources across the organization that don’t report to you?

Photo: Shutterstock, Inc.

Categories: Coaching, Leadership, Performance

Tags: , ,

5 replies


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