Firstly, we’re not talking about Kim Kardashian or how to become a social media influencer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
We are talking about the trend across industries of leaders taking on roles that drive important organisational tasks, often new and leading edge roles, without a team.
For many people who find themselves in a newly created team-less leadership role, it presents a whole new paradigm to the question of leadership. Starting at the ground floor, their experiences of leadership have been firmly grounded in the progression from team member to team leader, to a leader of teams, and so on.
The opportunity to lead without a team offers many possibilities: greater autonomy, a real chance to drive strategic decision making, a new and more active connection to senior executives and the CEO. But there is a downside — just how do you make ideas and concepts real without a team behind you?
One of the key drivers of the creation of team-less leadership is the customer. Customers want more from people and brands that provide products and services. This evolving expectation has forced traditionally structured organisations to reconsider the costs associated with a static workforce, siloed managerial roles and one-dimensional leadership styles.
Now, at face value it sounds pretty straight forward; however, how does a business with resources that are fully utilised change its offering, while keeping the lights on, and continuing to deliver current product and service outcomes in a period of transition?
It’s a great challenge, and for most businesses the answer has been to go looking. That is to go looking for someone with real leadership experience, critical thinking skills and a head for strategic planning and execution to take the lead. Someone just like you. But that brings us back to that question of how you make real the ideas and concepts you have without a team behind you?
The answer is to become an influencer. Whereas traditional management approaches have been able to fall back on a command and control structure to get things done, implementing new functionality without a team requires a shift towards influencing.
As an influencer, you have to gain, buy and sell the benefits to key stakeholders within the organisation to unlock resources and get things done.
In essence, new leaders have to become influencers within their own organisation. They have to engage, gain, buy-in and deliver, with and through other people.
The influencers playbook
I have now worked with a number of senior leaders who successfully transitioned to become influencers. From that experience comes this playbook on how team-less leaders can ensure they are effective.
One: Get active
No one is going to come knocking on your door with a selection of resources that they have no work to allocate. Get out there, meet people, find out what their challenges are, and understand how helping them will help you.
Two: Get strategic
Teams, by their very nature, have ‘day-to-day’ issues that often challenge a leader’s ability to think strategically. As a team-less leader, you should be free of those people-management, service delivery or implementation issues. Your role is to move above the noise and lead at a strategic level.
Three: Become a champion of service
Without a service mindset, you might just find yourself in competition for resources. With a service mindset you will talk in similar terms to the teams and leaders whose help you need. And you’ll be seen as an asset who has the organization’s best interests in mind.
Four: Become open source
Your peers, and the organisation in general, need to know what you are doing and the early adopters need to test your ideas. Become an open source platform, let the organisation be your Beta test platform.
Five: Communicate relentlessly
It’s a reality that out of sight is often out of mind. You need to be on the front foot with communication. Let people know where you’re at, and where you intend to take the organisation. Celebrate quick wins, explain challenges and open the channels of communication.
Follow these rules, and you will become an influential team-less leader.