Leading From the Bottom

Child scratching head with question mark around head concept for confusion, brainstorming and choice

I recently had the opportunity to present at the Akron-area SHRM meeting. It was a small but enthusiastic group. As we neared the end of the talk, there was a really though-provoking question from the audience:

How can we lead if we are not in a position of leadership?

There was a silent pause. I had to think about this for a moment. What is he trying to say? He’s asking – can we lead from the bottom?

Here was my response that evening:

  1. You can only control what you can control. (You can’t force change on someone who’s not ready or open to it.)
  2. Take on leadership roles and responsibilities wherever you can. (No matter how small. People will see this and will be moved by what they see.)
  3. Do a great job wherever you are on the org chart. (You don’t have to have the official title of boss to be the best at your position.)


Those things are still true, but after thinking about it – here’s what I wish I would have said:

Be willing to take initiative.

The best leaders in my life have been the ones who, well, lead things. They lead projects. They lead events. They organize action. They rally and gather the troops to get a project completed. Even if the initiative is a solo project – leaders are able to initiate change and endeavor to make things better for the next group.

Be willing to make things better even if you don’t get the credit.

Great leaders don't care who gets the glory. As long as the team gets the win. Click To Tweet

Are you willing to make the sacrifice of your time and talents to make things better for the future? Even if there is no immediate benefit to you personally?

When you look at leadership this way, it doesn’t matter where you fit on the organizational chart. You can truly lead from the bottom.

Not sure who said this, but I like this quote:

“True leadership is an attitude, not a title.” ~unknown (to me at least)



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