In any organization, it’s often individual contributors in non-managerial positions that can have the most impact on the products and services of the company. But often we don’t realize the opportunity and power we had until we are in a leadership position, by which point it’s too late.
Though our ability to make an impact does not necessitate a leadership position, to take full advantage of the opportunities that come along does require a certain set of leadership skills. This is more important to know now than ever as increasingly, impactful work is done and trust is built using skills of interpersonal influence rather than the means of positional authority.
The words you speak and the emotions that you display impact people around you for better or for worse. By choosing wisely what to express and what to keep to yourself, you can motivate, influence, and inspire or you can shut down productivity and breed negativity. This is especially difficult—and thus, all the more important—when things are not going well.
Project management skills
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As Roger Martin mentions in Harvard Business Review’s Rethinking the Decision Factory, knowledge workers have become the dominant part of the modern workplace and the work they do takes the form of projects rather than routine tasks. The ability to lead projects from conception to completion effectively is an increasingly valuable skillset.
Group and meeting facilitation
As anyone who has worked on a project can attest, this type of work is not done alone. You often need to involve multiple subject matter experts from across the organization to accomplish impactful work of meaning and substance. This requires skills to organize a temporary project team and facilitate them toward productive work (especially tricky when the work may not be their priority or primary interest).
Communicating vision and strategy
Last but certainly not least, you must do all of the above without the boss title or any formal authority to hold people accountable. You must earn respect and credibility and appeal to deeper motivations than the proverbial carrot-and-stick. How information is packaged determines how well it will be received; clear communication and a concrete action plan will get you most of the way there.