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Leading from the second chair

24 Nov 2015

Most of us want to be led by someone with vision, energy and purpose. Unfortunately communicators don’t always get the bosses they deserve.

Sometimes you find yourself working for a manager who won’t or can’t lead. Maybe they’re fearful for their career, lazy or just never got the opportunity to learn how to lead. An awful lot of managers fail to make the transition to leader.The end result is usually the same. Poor leadership has a dreadful impact on a communications team – it stifles creativity, blunts enthusiasm and turns what should be an adventurous vocation into a job without passion.

So what happens if you are not the boss but see the need for leadership? As a subordinate what can you do to exert influence within your team or even beyond?  Can you – as Americans say – lead from the second chair?

Regardless of the title on your business card, your team and those around you will recognize you as a leader – and not just for your PR skills – when you show empathy, a strong work ethic and relentless curiosity.

Servant leader

You will never create a sense of community in a PR team by making decisions based only on what’s good for you. Understand and support your colleagues in their work and career goals and freely share your thoughts on how they can succeed. At the end of the day never leave the office without asking a workmate how you can help so they get home earlier.  People respect the servant leader, the person who genuinely considers their interests. She earns respect, one of the most essential ingredients in establishing leadership.

Leaders aren’t lazy

You may not be the most creative person. You may not have the smartest business brain or the best technical skills in your team.  But never – repeat never – let anyone out-work you. They are many things you can’t control in life but your work ethic is one thing you surely can. People quickly notice then admire those who work hard – and smart. Get things done without drama is the hallmark of busy, effective communicators. They get handed the toughest assignments – the ones with the most opportunities to grow skills, develop confidence and earn influence.

Continuing curiosity

If you are the CEO or the Minister whose advice would you seek? Someone with a focus on the task at hand or the individual who understands the world surrounding their issues. Show leadership by knowing the macro and micro factors that will influence the future of your organisation and its dearest issues. We routinely do environmental scanning before a campaign but aspiring leaders continually scan. They spot trends and alert others to what they do and what they don’t want to hear.  Become the go-to person by knowing what’s going on!

The rest …

Of course aspiring leaders needs to learn to be innovative, take tough decisions and be personally persuasive.  But empathy, hard work and curiosity are a good start if you want to lead from the second chair.

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