I want to let you in on a secret.
You are a leader.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the org chart or what your official job title is.
You are a leader.
But sometimes, it’s hard to see ourselves as leaders. Our self-doubt, our mindset and so on can fog up our view of who we really are.
And yet, all it takes is one moment, one experience to change how we see ourselves.
I’ll tell you about the exact moment that happened for me.
My first-ever fundraising job coincided with the rise of online giving and non-profits using social media.
At the time, the organization I worked for was trying to figure out which of these technologies to use. For whatever reason, I was really interested in mobile giving technology.
The annual alumni weekend was approaching and we’d had some discussion at a meeting about how it was a missed opportunity to engage alumni in giving. We had been exploring some text to give campaigns and I suggested putting up signs in the event area with the text to give information.
It was such a small idea, but it was an important moment in my career. It was the first time I’d really experienced myself stepping up.
To me, that’s what leadership is at its core. Doing what you can from where you are.
Here are 7 ways that you can lead from where you are right now.
- Develop partnerships and collaborations – One of the things that I consistently see leaders do is develop partnerships and collaborations. This can be external to an organization, but it can also be internal with colleagues you may not usually work with. The idea here is to bring people together to do great work.
- Engage people in dialogue – Conversation is a powerful leadership tool. Look for opportunities to engage people in conversation about interesting topics.
- Find opportunities to develop yourself – You, my friend, are the CEO of your personal and professional development. It’s time to own that title. Think about what your strengths and weaknesses are. What can you do to develop those? Perhaps there are skill sets that you’d like to specialize in. Are there trainings that you can sign up for?
- Support the development of others – Being a leader means supporting the development of those around you. This could be through an informal peer mentorship or offer formal training. If there is a colleague that you already have a great working relationship with, could there be an opportunity for you to support each other’s development by being accountability partners?
- Anticipate what’s next – In our work, we often work from a place that is right in the middle of a bell curve. We do the work that is directly in front of us, but not always taking a strategic long view. This is an opportunity for you to consider
- Identify problems and suggest solutions – No doubt about it, every organization has problems. But that also means that it’s an opportunity for you to practice leadership. Think about a problem that exists in your department, it doesn’t have to be something big. Then brainstorm some possible solutions and share them with your team.
- Join a non-profit board – You might be thinking, “Vanessa, I work at a non-profit. Why would I want to volunteer with another one??” I hear you. But I have to say that some of the best professional development that I’ve had in my career has come from serving on a non-profit board. It can be a rich and immersive leadership that will give you some great hands-on experience.
My hope is that this list will give you a few ideas to practice your own leadership and develop your confidence because you are needed as a leader.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic in the comments below. Do you currently practice leading from where you are? Which techniques might you try?