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You Don’t Need to Be a Boss to Be a Leader

Posted August 30, 2018 By Erin Coupe

Erin Coupe is a real estate executive and guest columnist for Catalyst. This article originally appeared on Coupe’s LinkedIn.


In the last several months I’ve noticed a theme while in my countless networking conversations: people are feeling a need to shift the belief of what leadership looks like.

The traditional model of leadership—one that is exclusive and places the most senior or experienced person in charge—is a dated perspective. In today’s world, one’s experience and knowledge may not actually be their greatest asset.

I’ve been hearing more people question how their superiors lead, if they are the best person to do so, and whether they feel supported by their leader. I see people trying to identify what does and doesn’t make a good leader and internalizing that knowledge to define their own personal sense of leadership.

There is this clarity among people that you do not actually have to be a boss to be a leader. Instead we should look at how people are social influencers (and I don’t mean on social media). Observe how people work with others, how they carry themselves, how they react to situations. Do they lead by example? Do they inspire you? Are they influential in an empowering way?

Whether you’re leading yourself, your community, a team, or an organization, leadership is a balance of confidence and humility. And I’ll let you in on a little secret about humility: the more you know, the more you realize there is so much more to know.

Who do you learn from? Only from the people above and older than you? You learn from all demographics (all five generations in today’s workforce), across cultures and ethnicities. Everyone has value to bring and good leaders know this, so they’re inclusive. They let everyone use their voice, and they listen.

Afterall, people rarely leave jobs, they leave leaders. Good leaders know that retaining their talent is key. They attract strong employees because empowered people want to work with people that also feel empowered.

Be an agent of change. Don’t be afraid to set yourself apart and push the envelope. I bet it won’t be long before people are right there supporting your voice. People are seeing that good ideas and innovative approaches do not just come from people with 30 years of work experience.

As more people speak up, ineffective and disempowering leaders are being replaced with people less represented in traditional leadership ranks: younger workers, women, minorities. It’s about time the change is coming. The world is finally ready for them and for you. So be the leader that you want to see, and empower those around you to do the same, without worrying about the experience you have.


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