I remember like it was yesterday. March 2004, two months before graduating college, I landed a career with Enterprise Rent-A-Car. I was happy to be employed, but the overachiever inside was set to fast track through the company’s corporate structure and become a woman in charge.

Unless you’re in a small minority of people who have a business ready-made, chances are you’ve worked for someone. According to Statistics Brain of the 323 million people in America, only 400,400 are CEO’s. But we’re not gonna let that stat keep us from becoming the Chief of our biz + life!!

My good friend Thomas Watson said, “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself”. 

This couldn’t be more true. Leading when you’re not in charge can be frustrating but it doesn’t have to be. Here are five ways to lead any level.

1. Pursue purpose not position

My mom always told me “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”  Although this sounds positional, the lesson was to pursue purpose and exceed expectations at any level.

Pursuing purpose enables you to realize your contribution is a significant piece of the company’s success. When you pursue purpose, position becomes null and void. Common thoughts like “that’s not my job” and “someone else will do it” are eliminated.

2. Lead Thyself

Leading when you’re not in charge starts with leading you! Focus on leading yourself by making an intentional plan for your own personal growth, develop discipline, and exceed expectations.

If you can lead yourself, inevitably others will follow.

3. Apply the FANFI Principle

Find a need and fill it (FANFI)! In his book Common Sense Business, Steve Gottry discusses the FANFI principle. The thing that separates leaders from everyone else is they aren’t waiting on the person in charge to tell them what to do. They’re looking for problems and finding solutions.

4. Choose accomplishment over authority

Leaders are goal oriented and constantly look for ways to improve. They understand that authority does not equal accomplishment. Instead of dwelling on authority you don’t have, harness the power you do have to accomplish something unimaginable. This, in turn, inspire others! 

5. Think Critically

Regardless of title, position, or authority, great leaders at any level are constantly thinking….

  • How can our programs or products become better?
  • What can we do to create an amazing experience for our customer?
  • After we achieve this task what’s the next goal to tackle?

There is a difference between the practice of power and the practice of leadership. The practice of power is all about position, control, and authority.

Conversely, the practice of leadership begins with understanding that you aren’t “in charge” at all. Once this is embraced, if you’re able to mobilize yourself and others to accomplish amazing things, then you become invaluable.

Question: What’s your greatest challenge with leading on the job? Does it translate to your personal life?