We’ve all heard the phrase “actions speak louder than words”. The rise of social media and personal branding has only increased the importance of actions holding the true meaning in today’s digital world. The job title alone simply does not hold the value it used to. When we think of this phrase in regards to leadership, we can’t ignore the fact that many people in our organizations holding “leadership” roles simply may not be fit to lead.

Let’s first think about the word “leadership” from the perspective of James MacGregor Burns. In Burns’ book, “Leadership”, he discusses the topic of transformational leadership. Transformational leadership is defined as “a process where leaders and their followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.”

One of the defining attributes of our most influential leaders in history is their ability to transform and make a difference. For this reason, this definition of transformational leadership is a very accurate representation of what a leader SHOULD be in today’s society.

So, how should we define leadership in our lives? How can we ourselves be leaders regardless of our job title?

Let’s take a look.

Leaders Actions Put People First

A good leader knows he’s nothing without the people around him or herself. The strongest of CEOs have succeeded not just because of entrepreneurial fortitude but their ability to listen to the world around them. From the mailroom to their trusted advisors, a good leader builds a strong organization that can support the company in good times and in bad.

“In real life, the most practical advice for leaders is not to treat pawns like pawns, nor princes like princes, but all persons like persons.” – James MacGregor Burns

As MacGregor points out so clearly, leaders must be willing to put others ahead of them and truly show that every individual in the organization matters. These are the people who make the organization GO no matter what job title is on their business card.

How: Take a moment this week in your office or digitally to ask someone if there’s something you can do to help them. If something is within your power and a reasonable request – take the opportunity to help. You’ll be glad you did and find yourself asking again.

Leaders Create A Culture of Caring and Community

You don’t have to have the corner office to create a culture of caring. Being a supportive co-worker or building opportunities to create community are possible regardless of your role. Team members can work together on side projects together to work and build new ideas that provide them value and support the office space as well. These collaborative efforts do not have to be office focused either.

A few members of the team getting together once a month to go to happy hour may seem trivial, but it’s far from it. It’s the building of a community and fostering a sense of care.

Full disclosure, of course, that some companies simply make these process easier than others. Simply look at what Zappos has done with their Family Core Values. 

How: People want to feel they are apart of something. Take the opportunity to create work lunch opportunities or to collaborate on a project with someone who you normally don’t work with.

Leaders Educate, Coach AND Learn

A leader knows his or her strengths. They are also aware of their weaknesses. Every office has individuals who offer something to offer. A leader knows not only can they provide value by offering their time to educate others on something they may have an expertise on but also realizes it benefits them to learn.

Furthermore, a leader graciously accepts an opportunity to learn from those around him. The value of teaching if two-fold. We learn quite a bit of a student but one may argue we learn just as much in the role of teacher. By providing an opportunity for others to teach, one can inspire confidence and provide additional motivation to their team or team members.

How: Too often we don’t acknowledge our own weaknesses and stress our strengths. Find something you can improve upon and look to your community (work or social) who can help you improve in that area. After you’ve talked with them and began to work with one another make sure you take a moment to say thank you. Show them you appreciate the time they spent.

Leaders Are Never “Too Busy”

Let’s clarify this with a very important note. This does not mean a leader does not say no. A good leader, in fact, knows when to say no. Busy, however, infers a lack of interest in the individual.

If a person is truly authentic in their interest in you or need for help – one who leads can instead try to find a way to make time within the confines of their busy schedule. As Brian Fanzo says best, show you care!

How: Just cut the word from your vocabulary. There are better ways to say you’ve got a lot going on.

ACTION! Taking The Steps To Leadership

In the end, your actions give you an opportunity to be the leadership behind real change in your organization or field. Every action listed above is one that anyone, in any role can take. While office culture may play a large part in the length to which you can do some of these things, take a moment to realize that YOU can be an agent of change in an office with a bad leadership.

Community and values may take time to build but you have an opportunity to be the spark. All it takes is a touch of leadership.

Chris Barrows

Chris Barrows

Chris Barrows is Social Media and Mobile Products Coordinator for New York University. He is the host of the Why I Social Podcast and co-host of #JVMChat every other Tuesday at 1 p.m. EST.

He is currently a contributor to Millennial CEO and NEPA Blog Con. His favorite job and privilege is his role as father and husband.
Chris Barrows