How to Be A Leader – Even When You’re Not in Charge

June 21st, 2017


By Michael Solomon, 10x Management Co-Founder

Our friend and former consultant Edward Sullivan creates a great road map for leading when you don’t have the explicit authority or title to do so. This really resonated, as our tech talent often find themselves in this exact position. Because they bring so much varied experience to their engagements, they often observe moments when the established leadership might be in need of course correction. How to achieve that when it is not what they were brought in to do is a delicate process and Edward’s tips are a great addition to what we have already vetted and trained them to do.

As a senior level resource, our talent is expected (by us) to voice dissenting opinions to their managers on an engagement if a mistake is being made or a best practice is being overlooked. Sometimes, there are great business reasons for making bad technical decisions and we certainly stand by those but we encourage our tech talent to:

  1. Work with their customers to find out if the reason for a less than optimal technical decision is, in fact, for a good reason. If it is, they should note in writing the potential downside and pitfalls to that choice and acknowledge that they understand the reason it is being made.
  2. If the reason for the choice is not based on sound logic, they are to explain in detail to the customer why their might be a better approach and what the negatives are with going with the proposed solution.
  3. If the customer demonstrates an understanding and acknowledgement of this, our talent will implement having noted, in writing, the downsides.
  4. If they don’t feel the customer understands, they will push back again attempting a different path to explaining the issues.
  5. After this second attempt, they will implement as requested, noting the downside if needed.

The reason this is so important is because the consistent complaint we hear from customers who have had a bad experience elsewhere (particularly with inexpensive resources) is that the contractor did not ask questions or push back when something didn’t seem right. They implemented exactly what was requested regardless if it was a good choice. We want to avoid that at all costs and finding a way to lead effectively without the express authority or title is a tricky needle to thread. Thanks Edward, for the additional tools.

If you like this article, you might enjoy reading The Importance of Work-Life Balance