Leading from the second chair


Second chair1Most of us want to be led by someone with vision, energy and purpose but communicators don’t always get the type of bosses they deserve.

Sometimes you find yourself working for a manager who won’t or can’t lead. Maybe they’re fearful for their own career, lazy or just never got the opportunity to learn how to lead. A lot of managers fail to make the transition to leader.

The end result is usually the same. Poor leadership has a dreadful impact on a communications team – it stifles creativity, blunts enthusiasm and turns what should be an adventurous vocation into a job without passion.

So what happens if you are not the boss but see the need for leadership? As a subordinate what can you do to exert influence within your team or beyond?  Can you – as the Americans say – lead from the second chair?

Regardless of your title, people will recognize you as a leader – and not just for your PR skills – when you show empathy, a good work ethic and relentless curiosity.

Servant leader 

You will never create a sense of community in a PR team by making decisions based only on what’s good for you. Understand and support your colleagues in their work and career goals and share your thoughts on how they can succeed. At the end of the day never leave the office without asking a workmate how you can help so they get home earlier.  People respect the servant leader, the person who genuinely considers their interests. She earns respect and respect is an essential ingredient of leadership.

Lazy leaders don’t last

You may not be the most creative person or have the smartest business brain or the best technical skills in your team.  But never – repeat never – let anyone out-work you. They are many things you can’t control in life but your work ethic is one thing you surely can. People quickly notice then admire those who work hard – and smart. Busy, effective people get handed the toughest assignments.  Most often these challenges turn into opportunities to grow skills, develop confidence and earn reputation and influence.

Continuing curiosity

If you are the CEO or the Minister whose advice would you seek? Someone with a focus on the task at hand or the individual who understands the world surrounding their issues. Show leadership by knowing the macro and micro factors that will influence the future of your organisation and its dearest issues. We routinely do environmental scanning when we start a campaign but aspiring leaders continually scan. And follow though by alerting others to the good they see and the things people don’t want to hear.  Become the go-to person by knowing what’s going on!

And the rest …

Of course aspiring leaders needs to be innovative, take tough decisions and be personally persuasive.  But empathy, hard work and curiosity are a good start to helping you lead from the second chair.

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