How to be a successful employee when your manager isn’t a leader

“About 1,240,000,000 results (0.56 seconds)” — Google Search Results

When searching for a savory quote about leadership that would capture your undivided attention, so that I can give you the internet’s 1,240,000,001stopinion on leadership. I’ll keep this brief, and simple, but I want you to really think about the topic.

Quickly skipping over the basic questions that many pose on this topic:

  • Are managers and leaders the same? No. One is a title, and one is a role. Leaders will understand the difference.
  • Can leadership be taught? Management can be taught. Leadership can be practiced. You can learn to apply a metric to process. You can only practice holding yourself accountable for empowering your team to succeed.
  • What are the main differences between managers and leaders? Well, Google has another billion results on this topic too… Go Google it.

What you want to know is how to be successful when your manager doesn’t possess that je ne sais quoi we all hope for in a boss, right? Well here are a few tips that may give you the tools to still be successful.

Changing deadlines

Your boss tells you to deliver a report early by 2 whole, but you know it would really come out a lot better if you had those extra couple of days to pull it all together. He refuses. Deliver what you’ve got on your manager’s timeline. But go ahead and finish it the way you wanted to, also. When it’s ready, send it to your manager and let them know they can use the updated version moving forward. It’s a subtle nod that you respect their due dates, but you’re proud to deliver your best work.

No Recognition

A staff meeting is under way. The team leads are taking turns telling the group of the month’s accomplishments. You worked really hard on closing your biggest deal yet this past month. Yet, when your manager gives her update, it’s a simple “solid month team; keep up the good work”, you’re disappointed. Ouch. Been there? Me too. It’s okay though. Continue to kick ass, anyway. The truly hard workers keep up their work ethic because it doesn’t vary with the opinions of one or two people. These people work hard because they know no other way. Be one of these people, and the lack of a manager’s validation will never trump true success.

Figure it out yourself

You’re almost done designing the new social media logos for the company’s redesign. You walk past the desk of a colleague, another designer at the company, and catch some fresh new company logos on the screen. “What are you doing? I thought I was designing the new logos?” Guess someone’s manager forgot to give clear delegation of work, and now two people are doing the same work. At best, we’ve wasted the time of two talented employees. At worst, you’ve potentially created animosity between coworkers about whose work is going to be selected. When the boss can’t be clear and decisive, don’t wait around too long before interjecting. Be transparent with the person whose work is overlapping with yours, and work together to escalate the situation. You guys can help encourage your manager to make a decision, and hopefully use this as a reminder for the boss to be clear with the entire team.

Just remember, it doesn’t take a new title to be a leader. Continue to work your ass off, and to treat those around you with respect. The success will fall into place.