Be the Leader You Want Without Asking Anyone’s Permission

Ideas and a little initiative are all you need.

By Robin Camarote

Too often, opportunities to lead are overlooked. You miss these chances because they don’t come neatly packaged with an official request. 

By looking around your organization, you can figure out what consistently goes awry or undone. Unaddressed issues are also overlooked opportunities to lead, whether you have the title or not.

This week, a former colleague called me to say she felt stuck. She’d been passed over for a key program manager role. It was one that would have the built-in leadership opportunities she needs to demonstrate her readiness for further promotion. After talking for a few minutes, she started to see that leadership opportunities are everywhere. Here’s what we talked about.

Light a fire under forgotten initiatives

Every organization has at least one (if not 15) great idea that is dying on the vine. We capture these in planning meetings, but too often we don’t have the time or attention to do what needs to be done to get them going. Ones I’ve heard about this week include onboarding materials for new staff, a diversity and inclusion action plan, and surveying the competitive landscape. Pick something of the greatest interest to you (maybe few seem intriguing on the surface but pick one anyway). Do some research and plan out the immediate next steps. To get this priority rolling, what would you, your team, or the organization need to do over the next four to six weeks? Don’t bother planning out too far in advance. You want to build some momentum and see where it goes from there. Some ideas fade away for good reason. If there isn’t the will across the organization to invest, pick something else.

Scan the competitive landscape, and then report your findings

Pick your head up and scan what’s going on in your industry, in your client’s industry, or in the world. We’re all so busy and consumed with what’s right in front of us that we miss the trends that seem so obvious in retrospect. You can make a name for yourself as the person who’s consistently on top of trending, relevant news and puts it in context for what it means to your organization.

Remember, leadership opportunities are all around us

These are just three examples of ones you might have overlooked. I certainly have in the past. Being too busy or unsure of what I was “allowed” to do also held me back. Luckily, these three don’t require permission  just a little initiative and time investment. Taking these actions can be personally and professionally satisfying because you build your leadership muscle and elevate your reputation as someone who takes initiative.

To help your organization move forward, lead from where you are. This demonstrates your skill range and can help you build a reputation as a problem solver.