Leading without Authority, Title or Rank

Posted by Todd Smith

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Leadership image3The leaders of the future will be those people who others want to follow because they are liked and respected, not because of their authority, title, or rank.

A real leader is not someone who only leads people under his or her position; it’s someone who leads everyone around them. This is referred to as 360-degree leadership.

If you are a salesperson, it’s leading your customers, colleagues, service people, and suppliers. If you are a rising employee, it’s leading your bosses and co-workers.

What is Leadership?

Leadership expert, Ken Blanchard said “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” He’s not alone in his thinking. John Maxwell, who has written more best selling books on leadership than any other author, said “Leadership is one word, Influence.“

Since writing my last lesson 3 years ago, I have spent more time learning about and watching leadership in action than at any point in my life. It has become clear to me that leadership is one word, “Influence” and the way to become a person of influence is two words: “Respect and Likability”.

If you want to be a person of influence, then people must like and respect you. If you want influence at home, your spouse and children must like and respect you. If you want influence at work, the people you work with must like and respect you.

Very few things will improve your value, self-esteem, and personal relationships more than doing the little things that positively impact how people feel about you.

Becoming Likable – It’s Not What You Think

Let’s start with being clear as to what defines “Likability”. So often people think to be likable they need to do things such as kissing butt, being extra cheerful, or other disingenuous (fake) things to “get” people to like them.

When people “try” to be liked, it actually hurts them. Not only does it hurt them because people can intuitively sense their lack of genuineness, but it also hurts their self-esteem, because they are not living with integrity. (I know a lot of adults living in depression for this very reason)

Here are the correct definitions of likability:

  • Easy to like
  • Having pleasant or appealing qualities
  • Being friendly
  • Having qualities that bring out a favorable regard
  • Being pleasant

If you question the importance of being likable to have influence, are you drawn to likable people? When given a choice between two equal candidates for a position, would you choose the person you like more? When hiring a painting contractor, realtor, or insurance agent, are you more likely to select the person you like most?

Becoming Respected – It’s More Than You Think

Every day you are sending hundreds of messages out to the world that play a role in how people see you and feel about you. Take a simple email as an example. Here are a few factors that people intuitively notice that impact your personal brand in their minds:

  • How soon it is returned
  • Did you address them by name
  • Were you friendly
  • Did you proof your email
  • Was it properly formatted
  • Was it clear and to the point
  • The overall tone of the email

Every interaction you have with people has multiple components, each impacting how others feel about you. If you are meeting people in a business setting, here are just a few of the factors people immediately notice:

  • Were you on time
  • Your appearance
  • How you greeted them
  • Were you friendly
  • Did you remember their name
  • Did you show an interest in them
  • Were you prepared
  • The clarity and tone with which you speak
  • Do you value the opinions of others
  • Do you listen without interrupting
  • Is your attention diverted to your mobile device

There are hundreds of little things you do each day that play a role in how people see you and feel about you that ultimately impacts the level of respect they have for you. If you don’t feel liked or respected by someone, there’s a 99% chance you’ve given him or her reason to feel that way about you.

My Challenge

Rather than looking at the little things you should and shouldn’t be doing, focus on the person you want to become. Examples include:

  • If you are a responsible person, you won’t need to focus on being on time or making sure you are prepared, because it’s who you are.
  • If you take pride in your written communications, you won’t need to make sure your emails are properly formatted and proofed, because that will happen automatically.
  • If you are a person who genuinely cares about others, you won’t have to be intentional about showing an interest in people, because it’s what you do anyway.
  • If you are person of integrity, you won’t need to do things to show you can be trusted, because people won’t question your integrity.

If you want to be a leader and person of influence, then focus on the person you need to become to be viewed in that regard. Start today becoming the person you need to be, so you can be the leader you want to be.

To lead people you must be a person of influence. To be a person of influence you must be someone people like and respect.


About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.

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