Developing Personal Leadership – If not you, then who?

leadership1On multiple occasions in the past month I have been confronted with “I’m not a manager, and so I have no authority in that area”.  Each of my partners in conversation has used the statement to abdicate responsibility for action on their part.  Yet when asked “if it’s not you who can make this happen, then who?” the answer has conclusively been there is no one else with the appropriate skills and knowledge to support the decision making required.

Firstly, managers who rely solely on the authoritarian dictatorship approach of “I told you, so just do it”, quickly become unpopular and managers of a passive/aggressive or subversive team.  Not a place anyone should be aspiring to be.

People who make change happen are leaders.  Leadership is not the construct of title or pay rate.  It involves you acting to empower other people to willingly achieve desired outcomes (either personal or work related). Other people may be work colleagues, friends, family or other members of your community.

In any environment it is a mistake to think that without a manager title you cannot make things happen.  You can by being a leader.  You will not if you abdicate performing any leadership within your own position because you are not deemed a manager.

Most of us do not demonstrate leadership capability in every facet of our lives.  Many people enjoy and participate in sport, but only a select few have the leadership ability required to inspire and empower professional athletes.

You will personally have leadership capability in an area where you have specific skills or knowledge, or where the requirement for exceptional talent is lower.  For instance in the latter, we all need to display leadership when teaching children to drive.  Without good leadership they will not embrace the appropriate responsible attitude, which is fundamental to driving success.

Being a leader at work requires the confidence to speak up where you can add value.  That can be difficult for many people in the workplace.  It is often perceived that leaders need to speak strongly and loudly.  This is arrogance and results in aggressive behaviour and avoidance by people.  The best leaders are assertive and quietly confident; think Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, the latest Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Good Leaders:

  • Provide opinions and advice based on sound logic and experience
  • Are open to having their opinion questioned and explore alternate opinions
  • Listen to people and hear their experience, concerns and opinions
  • Embrace the subject matter expertise of other people
  • Take on responsibility for informing and educating people to facilitate ease of decision making
  • Educate themselves in order to provide better support to others
  • Understand the change process for others and accommodate that need in reaching an outcome
  • Empower other people to make decisions (negating the need to have personal authority).

Embrace leadership in your area of value.  You will be assisting other people within your organisation achieve the best possible outcome.  Improve your skills in communication, negotiation or facilitation to build capability.

Because if not you, then who?  It’s likely there is no one as valuable as you.


  1. Ana (Dragana) Mitrovich October 14, 2014 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    Wonderful article!
    Motivating staff to be innovative and creative is the hardest part of being a leader, especially in an organisation where position descriptions are so constrictive. I am often confronted with a statement ‘it is not in my position description’. This article has inspired me to be more creative in my role.

  2. Michelle Linton October 17, 2014 at 8:23 am - Reply

    Thank you, Ana, I’m pleased that the article resonated with you. The more creative we are in leading by example, the happier employees will be in going that extra mile and stepping outside the boundaries of their role description.

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