We perceive leadership as the person with the title, given the official authority to make people make things happen. Your boss, your team leader, your manager, the person who has been there and done that is the leader, not you who’s just starting or only has a year’s experience.
My current work made me realise that I have been a leader for a long time. Adding to the agency work culture I had mentioned in the first post, there were other factors that have had me see leadership and my leadership abilities in a different light. I had a very enjoyable stint at a sizeable agency and the team I joined had a lead who was controversial to a point. She came in, bumped heads with some people but definitely got her way with some collateral damage. At first, we were weary especially we the two interns who had just joined because we were not sure if we were safe either. The point that I saw her in a different light was when the other intern’s contract was coming up and there was no sign of her being retained. The team lead actually forwarded openings she saw and helped her improve her resume to boost her personal branding. Because of the tricky start we had, the first thought was to be suspicious. Why is she so quick to let her go? She knew something we didn’t but that’s a story for another day. In fact, she had actually vouched for the intern’s retention but, well, there was that thing she knew.
What was awesome about this was that everyone had to do it: content manager, community manager, designer, everyone came up with a campaign proposal. I can tell you for a fact, the ideas were so great that the hardest part was picking which idea to postpone.
One thing this team lead always said was that she didn’t come to make friends, it wasn’t in her’s or anyone’s job description. She came to win awards and that meant that all she needed was everyone to do their work and do it well. Now, what gave me a lifetime impression was how she had systems of getting everyone involved in growing business. The best one was where every month, everyone had to come up with a campaign proposal for our clients for the next month or any specific function that would be helpful to the client. We would then present it to the whole team, critic each other and improve on the idea. The ideas that were well thought out were finetuned and you as the creator would be part of the presentation to the respective client. What was awesome about this was that everyone had to do it: content manager, community manager, designer, everyone came up with a campaign proposal. I can tell you for a fact, the ideas were so great that the hardest part was picking which idea to postpone. Two years later, I saw one of my ideas actually introduced into a campaign though I had already left and the client was different. Still, I will accept the small win. #Proud.
Another helpful factor was the appraisal system. It is now that appreciate the value of being accountable to yourself for your personal development. Two things to take out from this: first, every six months you had to have done some training or skill development. It was more than just doing it, doing it, doing it. Second, and I have never forgotten this one question: what new innovation have you brought into the company culture, structure or functions?
I have never forgotten this one question: what new solution have you introduced to the way the company works?
The first time this came up I was so confused! I mean, who am I to change the wheel? You seem to have a good idea of how you want the business to run anyway. The HR explained that being in a creative space and in a quickly changing world, we all have to be in a state of constant change. It hit me much, much later that this was a genius appraisal question. For you to have a solution, there is a problem you have seen. Think about it, most people just complain: about their office and how this person doesn’t do that, the management should know to do this, my other boss would always do this and it was much better, blah, blah, blah. This question ideally dares you to do something and not complain. Genius.
We tend to wait for the leader to exert their authority and do things the way you think they should be done. Leaders expect their direction to be followed without question even if they might have missed something. The error in this goes two ways. First, no one has a monopoly on knowledge. My team leader was highly experienced, yes, but she knows she doesn’t have all the creative ideas. Second, the appraisal question came up because no manager/leader is telepathic and a way to get into your head is to get you out of it.
You are the leader right where you are sat. My team leader taught me to take part in opportunities that would grow me regardless of my then employment level.
Let’s see leadership in a different view. You are the leader right where you are sat. My team leader taught me to take part in opportunities that would grow me regardless of my then employment level. I got to polish a skill that would have rusted out had I gone through the motions of life. Then lead in making a change. You do no favours by complaining and wallowing in your perceived lack of power. For all you know, someone has been hoping for back up to speak up.