Leading (Without a Team)

In this day and age, we often come across quotes, posts, and even memes about the differences between a boss and a leader. Even before the social media era, books and journals about leadership success have filled up spaces in bookshelves and magazine columns, cementing its status as the only subject in bookstores (probably next to spirituality) that will probably never go away. 

Despite reading and talking about it, the concept and let alone, practice, of leadership has been misunderstood by many in the workplace for the longest time. A significant amount of employees still think that leadership only applies to those who manage a team. This shouldn’t be and IS NOT the case at all. People forget that authentic leadership does not start with managing a team. Rather, it can start with one’s self. 

Here are three quick ways to practice our innate leadership skills. 

  1. Focus on the internal rather than the external 

First coined by American psychologist Julian B. Rotter, the concept of locus of control is how an individual perceives the causes of his or her experiences and the factors to which that person attributes their successes or failures. Focusing on the internal locus of control instead of the external allows the person to be responsible for his or her actions and the results that come with them – instead of playing the blame game. Such a mindset will further enhance one’s sense of accountability – a trait successful leaders have. 

  1. Think names, not positions

Having worked for a couple of successful tech companies in the Bay Area, one thing that left a mark on me, among others, was when my bosses asked us – their subordinates – to call them by their first names. This made me learn that leadership is indeed something personal, not transactional. I felt that we were really in THE SAME boat. To this date, even outside the office confines, I make sure to ask the names of everyone I interact with. This way, it fosters a sense of camaraderie – something essential in team building. 

  1. Small gestures go a long way

With how hectic and stressful the world has been this past year or so, it is quite easy to skip and do away with the small acts and words of kindness that could make a big impact on someone else’s day. Saying “Thank Yous and Pleases” to colleagues can empower them to do the same, creating a more appreciative working environment. It is never wrong to overestimate the power of small gestures in honing one’s leadership ability. 

About the author

A business development and marketing professional, Mark’s decade-long experience spans locally and internationally across various industries including stints with multinational companies in the Philippines and technology start-ups in the San Francisco Bay Area.