Building Leaders Who Build Organizations

How to Exercise Leadership When You’re Not in Charge

How to Exercise Leadership When You’re Not in Charge

Are you letting your lack of authority paralyse you? One of the greatest myths of leadership is that you must be in charge in order to lead. Great leaders don’t buy it. Great leaders lead with or without the authority and learn to unleash their influence wherever they are.

Most of us believe that “leaders” are people who occupy certain roles that come with some sort of official authority. At every stage of your career, and throughout life in general, you will be challenged to lead when you’re not really in charge. This is the nature of human systems. And learning how to do this well is what separates those who surpass their peers and go on to lead their own business units or companies, from those who squander their potential as middle managers.

Yet, when we say people “rise to the occasion” or “take the lead,” we are basically saying that people with no official authority sometimes go beyond what’s expected of them and exercise leadership.

Here are five ways to exercise leadership when you’re not in charge…


1.) Master Self Leadership

This is critical. The ability to manage and lead yourself transcends beyond measure. How can this be achieved – self discipline my friends. Micro speed, macro patience. Let me explain..Be calm on the surface and paddle like crazy underneath. Get shit done in the bigger scheme of things, display the necessary patience required until you are duly recognised.


Nothing so conclusively proves a mans ability to lead others more than how how he leads himself. Thomas J Watson


Common misconceptions have led us to believe that great leaders are born. Keep in mind that every leader today was once a great follower. So lead yourself well, Practice self-discipline. Nurture patience. Hold yourself to a higher standard than you hold others. Read books. Hold yourself accountable. And learn how to be a follower.

Great leaders understand the world followers live in and what it is like to be under authority. So they have a better idea of how authority should be exercised. They understand their staff and congregation because they have walked in their shoes.

So, learn the art of followership. It is essential for great leadership.


2.) Display Positivity

This will not only bring massive change to your life, but to those around you as well. Positivity breeds positivity.You going to have days whereby your energy is zapped, instead motivate and inspire others to perform well. Be that person. It beats being the Debbie downer. Charles dickens said it best, “The sun himself is weak when he first rises, and gathers strength and courage as the day gets on.”

Great leaders are mindful of their language, do not get caught up allowing office negativity to impact your psychological state.

When you are not in charge, the natural response is to be cynical. “I could do that better. They don’t know what they are doing.” You get the idea. This is why positivity is ultimately a fight for “we” over “me” and “us” over “them.”

Choose to be outrageously positive. In everything you do…Full stop.

3.) Think critically

Critical thinking is the use of those cognitive skills or strategies that increase the probability of a desirable outcome. It is used to describe thinking that is purposeful, reasoned, and goal-directed – the kind of thinking involved in solving problems, formulating inferences, calculating likelihoods, and making decisions … it’s the kind of thinking that makes desirable outcomes more likely.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”—Aristotle


Do you want others to succeed?

Critical thinkers always want others to succeed. Cynics hope everyone fails.


4.) Take Initiative

There is nothing more crippling to an organisation than passive leaders. And if you are not in charge, the default is to be passive.

But if you want to be a great leader, don’t buy into this crap. Get to work. Don’t wait on someone to give you orders. Take initiative. I have seen this working with young leaders and interns. The most productive leaders don’t need me to constantly tell them what to do. They don’t need checklists. They figure it out.

Taking initiative may make you feel uncomfortable since you’ll often be forced to step outside your comfort zone, but, why not get comfortable with being uncomfortable and be one step ahead? Challenge yourself to take initiative and be proactive today.

Don’t wait for others to tell you what to do. Be an initiator.

 5.) Understand that leadership does not require a title

If you are a young leader and you believe you must be in a position of authority to have influence, you don’t understand leadership. Leadership is cultivating influence wherever you are. If you have to leverage positional authority to gain influence, you are not a good leader.

Titles say nothing about earned authority. Authority, influence, trust and impact all take time. And you don’t always see it developing around you. This requires a level of faith in the overall process that can be hard for young leaders. It’s especially hard because young leaders assume that a title will be a shortcut (even when it’s not).

So be consistent. It may take time, months and years, and then suddenly, overnight, you’ll have the authority you were hoping for.

Leadership is less about the position you hold
than the influence you have. It’s about doing
world-class work, playing at your peak,
and leaving people better than you found them.
It’s about Leading Without a Title.

~ Robin Sharma

Maybe you have some points I did not mention. Maybe you have learned some things when you were not in charge that helped you become a great leader. Let’s keep the conversation going. I’d love to hear your ideas…

5 Principles for Introducing Change to Your Team

5 Principles for Introducing Change to Your Team


Introducing change to your team can be challenging if not carried out with due diligence. Globalisation and constant innovation of technology result in a constantly evolving business environment. Phenomena such as social media and mobile adaptability have revolutionised business and the effect of this is an ever-increasing need for change, and therefore change management.

A company must evolve in order to stay competitive, and everyone needs to be onboard when change is on the horizon. To ensure leaders are experienced in handling change management, here are 5 principles for introducing change to your team:

1. Be honest about what is changing and why?

Speaking clearly and honestly is key to communicating with employees at any time, but especially during uncertain – and sometimes unsettling – times of change. People respond well to respectful and honest communication. Let employees understand the source of the change and the reason things are changing. More often than not, if its not done in a manner whereby employees are spoken down to or confused with unnnecesary jargon, the message is well received. You want to build trust from the get and this step is crucial to getting things off on the right foot.

2. Share your vision and explain the benefits

Now that you have informed your team about the change, get them to buy into your vision. You’re the artist here, paint the picture of what is going to happen and when. This will reassure the team of the road ahead and allow them to see where they fit in. Don’t stop there, explain the benefits that the new change will bring along, as well as the new opportunities that they may be able to benefit from. Acknowledge that things will be different, however once they buy in to the upside, the change becomes easier.

Look, if the change has no upside, be honest about it. Yeah it sucks that sometimes it may be change we opposed to and are forced to put on a brave face for the sake of the organisation. I’d let my team know that regardless, I will do whatever necessary to ensure that the process is smooth for them.

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
―Leo Tolstoy


3. Manage expectations

I read an article last week that stated “The worth of any business leader can be measured simply by analysing his or her ability to manage expectations”

I have to agree as when leading a department through change, managing expectations is more critical that ever. Clarify what is expected from your team, and conversely figure out what they expect from you. As you identify the key role players from your team,hold the relevant individuals accountable throughout the process. Ensure that you equip them with the proper tools, talent, resources, responsibility and authority necessary for finishing the race. If it’s not managed you will encounter resistance from the team which brings me to the next point.

4. Address Resistance

If the team are actively participating in the change process, some are less likely to experience resistance. The key to this challenge is to understand the true nature of resistance. Actually, what employees resist is usually not technical change but social change—the change in their human relationships that generally accompanies technical change.

Resistance is usually created because of certain blind spots and attitudes which employees have as a result of their preoccupation with the technical aspects of new ideas. This is also a great opportunity for you as the leader to coach your team through the change.

5. Empower employees to contribute

Control of one’s own job is one of the key factors that employees want from work. So, too, this control aspect follows when you seek to minimise resistance to change. Give your team control over any aspect of the change that they can manage.

If you have communicated transparently, you have provided the direction, the rationale and goals, and the parameters that have been set by your organization. Within that framework, your objective is to empower the team to make the change work.

What are your thoughts on change? How would you go about introducing it to your team?

Why It’s Important To Set Clear Objectives

Why It’s Important To Set Clear Objectives


How do you ensure that everyone completely understands their objectives?
No matter how big or small the project you are working on, it’s important to establish clear objectives and expectations for all parties involved.

Objectives are vital for business goal setting in corporate management. We know that tasks form the building blocks of all the objectives in a given goal plan. This means that if we want to have effective tasks, then it is important to plan and record clearly defined objectives that can deliver desired results.

If the objectives are not effectively defined, then the defined tasks will lead to the failure of the planned goal. The drawbacks from this poorly defined objective is that it can delay the production output, logistical nightmares, escalations of costs, and it can also be the reason for the collapse of management. Let us look at why teams in organisations fail to reach their objectives and key results (OKR):

Lack of Buy-in From Employees

Employees are core to any OKR strategy. But few employers actually ensure buy-in from them. Making employees primary stakeholders in the OKR process is the underpinning of a successful execution. It should be easy for anyone to see how objectives of teammates complement their own to achieve larger goals – that of the team and the company. They need to work with their teammates and help each other to make sure their efforts are aligned.This is one of the proven tactics companies use for this purpose. Couple that with bottom-up goal setting process. You have got a recipe for successful execution.

Lack of Clarity on Definition of Success-Failure

What does success look like? Sound familiar? Well the reason behind teams ultimately succeeding and failing is having a clear measurement of success. Communicate objectives clearly and frequently with your teams. Use the S.M.A.R.T(Specific,Measurable,Attainable,Realistic,Timely) goal process when designing objectives and key to eliminate a culture of silos and encourage collaboration.

Objectives Only in Pursuit of Wealth

Old school companies set material goals e.g. ‘Become profitable’,’Increase profits by 30%’ and so on. Making profits is always a business goal, it is a no brainer. But if projected as the ultimate aim, it tends to dampen the spirits of the workforce. Aligning material objectives with intellectual ones is one of the challenging aspects. That is where many companies fail to inspire.

Build a clear line-of-sight with aligned objectives. Make employees realise how their efforts are affecting the bottom line.

What other reasons do you think can cause organisations to fail when trying to achieve their objectives? Let me know in the comments.

Founder and CEO of Elite Performers. Shiraaz is a Leadership, Career Coach and NLP practitioner who writes on leadership and management challenges. He also targets other areas of personal and professional development.

Are You a Leader With Low EQ?

Are You a Leader With Low EQ?


Are you a leader with low EQ? I must admit my initial thoughts about starting with a negative question were challenged. However, in order to grow as leaders, its imperative we identify with what is lacking in our arsenal of skills. Before you answer the question above, let us look at what is EQ.

Emotional intelligence refers to the capacity to identify, evaluate, and manage emotions in one’s self as well as in other people. While some researchers believe this ability may be trained and developed, other experts suggest emotional intelligence is a trait a person must be born with.

Some key principles of emotional intelligence include:

  • Self-awareness – the ability to recognize personal emotions, emotional triggers, and limitations
  • Self-regulation – the ability to manage emotions so they do not have a negative effect
  • Motivation – an inner drive that comes from the personal joy experienced after an accomplishment
  • Empathy – the ability to recognise, understand, and experience the emotions of another person
  • Social skills – the ability to interact and negotiate with other individuals in order to find the best way to meet the needs of each person

To be effective leaders in the workplace, managers, supervisors, and other authority figures must be able to function productively with people under their charge. A good leader is able to create the type of work environment where each person feels relevant and motivated to succeed. An individual’s level of emotional intelligence is often referred to as his or her emotional intelligence quotient, or EQ. Here are some of the classic signs of low emotional intelligence:

Always playing the victim role

Victims don’t accept responsibility when something goes wrong in the workplace. Having a victim mentality is incredibly destructive because it absolves us of the capacity to do anything to improve our situation. Positive psychology states that this is one of the reasons why some people become pessimists – they literally feel like they have absolutely no control over what is happening in their lives.

As a result you see people with this mindset who often complain about what others – their boss, their friends, their husbands, their parents, are doing to them. I’ve met people in their 40s who still blame their parents for their misfortunes.

People who have a victim mentality drain energy, put people down and have a difficult time sustaining relationships in the long term. After all, emotions are incredibly contagious.

Refusing to accept critical feedback

Low EQ individuals cannot accept feedback without getting defensive. They interpret any communication to them as an attack on their character, competence and overall ability.

None of us enjoy getting criticised. It’s human nature to enjoy being right and feel a sense of hurt when we’re wrong. The thing is, we all need criticism. Although we’re generally drawn to like-minded people, those who disagree with us truly help us grow. The ones who call us out, point out our weaknesses and flaws…are the ones who make us better

Use passive-aggressive communication styles

Passive-aggressive behaviour is characterised by dependence and manipulation. It combines negative attitudes and pessimism which are so strong they drag others to a point of deep mental and emotional exhaustion. Likewise, these characteristics make for a defiant personality that is, unfortunately, very common. This behaviour always masks hidden anger, however it will show up through language. Some confusing messaging include:

  • I don’t understand what you are trying to tell me” (even if they know exactly what we are trying to communicate).
  • Whatever you want” (affirmations that end the discussion as soon as possible in order to avoid sincere and direct emotional communication).
  • “Why do you act like this? You take everything so seriously” (the passive-aggressive person uses these kinds of phrases to humiliate the listener and push him/her to their limit).


Train your brain by repeatedly practicing new emotionally intelligent behaviours, it builds the pathways needed to make them into habits. As your brain reinforces the use of these new behaviours, the connections supporting old, destructive behaviours die off. Before long, you will begin responding to your surroundings with emotional intelligence without even having to think about it.

Please do share your thoughts on what areas of emotional intelligence you may require assistance with? I would love to hear from you.

Founder and CEO of Elite Performers. Shiraaz is a Leadership, Career Coach and NLP practitioner who writes on leadership and management challenges. He also targets other areas of personal and professional

Why Managers Need Interpersonal Skills

Why Managers Need Interpersonal Skills


I had a recent interaction with a friend at a network event who wanted to know what skills would be required to get ahead in their career. Now I know you may be asking the same question so I thought I’d share some insight on the topic.

Some essential skills include increasing your visibility, getting others to perceive you in a positive light, developing your executive presence and having strong interpersonal skills.

What are interpersonal skills? A general definition would be that interpersonal skills are the skills required to effectively communicate both verbally and non-verbally. However this doesn’t end there, it also includes:

  • Communication Skills, which in turn include:
    1. Verbal Communication – What we say and how we say it.
    2. Non-Verbal Communication – What we communicate without words, body language is an example.
    3. Listening Skills – How we interpret both the verbal and non-verbal messages sent by others.
  • Team-Working – Working with others in groups and teams, both formal and informal.
  • Negotiation, Persuasion and Influencing Skills – Working with others to find a mutually agreeable (Win/Win) outcome.
  • Conflict Resolution and Mediation – Working with others to resolve interpersonal conflict and disagreements in a positive way.
  • Problem Solving and Decision-Making – Working with others to identify, define and solve problems, which includes making decisions about the best course of action.

It goes without saying that interpersonal skills are essential in any career or business as person-to-person interaction is required at any level and for virtually any job. Here is why every manager needs interpersonal skills:

It makes you relatable

With good interpersonal skills, your colleagues and even your managers positively perceive you as an approachable person. Coworkers are more comfortable interacting with you when seeking your assistance and advice. You’ll find that people become easier to work with, and you can engage with them more meaningfully, making your productivity more fruitful.

Increases Credibility and Customer Satisfaction

You show dedication to customer service and support when you’re able to interact well not just with your coworkers, but with your consumers. Diplomacy is imperative because you use it to represent and market on behalf of the company you work for and your employer. Customers see that you don’t compromise on productivity, that you are aware of their needs and are willing to act on their queries and listen to their input on the products and services you offer.

They Make You an Effective Leader

A leader without the ability to connect with his/her team will inevitably fail, or lose valuable members of that team resulting in the loss of productivity or burdening other employees with the work left behind. Effective leaders identify with their own weaknesses and look to turn them into strengths as soon as possible. They gather insight, spend hours learning and sharpening their tools, thus making them competent and ready to deal with any challenge that may arise.

Keeps the Feedback Loop Open

Most companies attempt to create a dynamic workplace, which adapts quickly not only to internal but also to external variables. An important component for a dynamic workplace is effective communication and an open feedback loop. If you are unfamiliar with the term it is essentially the communication that happens between a task-giver and a task-completer. During the process, as the person performing the task completes steps, they may ask for feedback from the supervisor that gave them the task. The manager then either tells the employee or person that they are doing well or to perform appropriate adjustments. Then this cycle or “loop” is repeated. The reasons why a feedback loop might break down are multiple but undeniably linked to interpersonal skills:

  • Not being approachable
  • Not being present both mentally and physically
  • Lacking overall communication with your subordinates

An extremely damaging behaviour that is very frequently seen is allowing the task to be completed and then giving the person feedback afterwards, especially if they asked for feedback previously and were denied it. It can affect productivity, morale and the quality of work produced. There is nothing worse than a person pouring hours of labour into a project only for a manager to come and tear it all down.

I hope these add value to you, let me know your thoughts on the relevance of interpersonal skills?


Founder and CEO of Elite Performers. Shiraaz is a Leadership, Career Coach and NLP practitioner who writes on leadership and management challenges. He also targets other areas of personal and professional development.