How to Lead Without Being a Manager

May 2020

There is a common misconception that you have to be in a management position in order to be a leader in your organization. Just a few months ago, I believed these two things went hand in hand as well. how-to-lead-without-being-a-manager

After going through an extensive 3-month Leadership Training at KWSM: a digital marketing agency, my opinion has evolved. This leadership program is taught by our President & CEO, Katie Wagner. Each week we covered different aspects of the definition of leadership. To my surprise, almost none of them required me to be in a managerial position to implement them. 

Now that I have gone through this program, I thought I would share some of the most important and eye-opening lessons that I learned along the way.

5 Ways To Become an Organizational Leader 

1. Focus on Self-Governance

Leaders are looked at to know how to behave. If you want to be an organizational leader you should always look, dress, and respond in a way that earns respect. Most companies are getting more relaxed on business attire, but that doesn’t mean you should walk in with a messy bun, no make-up, and wrinkly clothes. As a leader, this sends a signal to the rest of the team that this kind of behavior is acceptable. Furthermore, make sure you have good body intelligence (BQ). Get enough rest, eat when you need to, and keep yourself healthy. This type of discipline over yourself will undoubtedly make people ask themselves, “how does she do it?” 

2. Prioritize Your Work to Have the Biggest Impact

We are all faced with a to-do list that will take us more time than hours in the day. Without realizing it, we are making small decisions throughout the day that determine which tasks are going to get done and which are going to be pushed to tomorrow. As a leader, it is important to be able to identify the task or objective that is going to have the biggest impact. At KWSM: a digital marketing agency, I lead our morning huddle. Each morning I ask members of our team to identify their #1 priority for the day. This is an incredibly important step because it forces you to determine the single most important task you will do today that will move the needle forward. If you can commit to getting that one thing done every day, you will have an amazing impact on the overall strategy or goal. It’s a simple trick that will make all the difference in your leadership career. 

3. Facilitate Collaboration

Facilitating collaboration is very different from collaborating yourself. As a leader in a non-management role, there are ways you can encourage others to join in the conversation. For example, bring up an idea someone else had with you in a private conversation in a group setting. Let that person take the ball to explain their idea in more detail. Another way to facilitate collaboration is to recognize the strengths in others. If you are asked for your opinion or insight on a subject you know someone else is particularly good at, connect the seeker with them instead of answering it yourself. Don’t worry, you will be just as helpful to the person who posed the question. With the added benefit that you are helping boost teamwork within your organization. 

4. Practice Incredible Ownership 

When placed in a role, it usually comes with a set of responsibilities and expectations. This is just a guide for how the job is done, but that doesn’t mean you can’t step outside of it. Anytime you are involved in a project, take ownership of it and follow through. Assume that the deadline, quality of work, and success of the project are all outcomes you are accountable for. You may not be in a position to tell people to hit their deadline, but you can help them stay on track by checking in with them. Be a helpful resource to those around you and provide your opinion where you can, to help the project succeed. 

5. Inspire & Encourage Others 

As an organizational leader, people are going to take your thoughts into consideration when forming their own. They trust you and value your opinion. That said, you hold a tremendous amount of influence over how people think, feel, and react. It is a powerful responsibility that should be used to do good. Make it a priority for yourself to inspire those around you and encourage them. This is especially important when the organization is going through change. Do your best to build relationships with those you work with, align your priorities, and find ways to work together to get results. 

Why it Matters 

As you read through these you may have thought to yourself, ‘hey, I already do that.’ That’s great! That likely means you are already well on your way to being an organizational leader. Keep this behavior consistent and others will start to notice you. If you decide to join our KWSM Team, you will quickly notice how these actions will help shape a career path. Our managers and executives are always happy to help you advance your career if you are willing to put in the energy and enthusiasm. 


89% Of Executives believe strengthening organizational leadership is a top priority.

At our digital marketing agency, we absolutely believe this to be true. If you are looking for a new opportunity and want to join our team, we encourage you to explore some of our open positions. 

CLICK HERE to see our careers page. 




Fill out the form below to start your conversation with KWSM.

Core Values at KWSM a digital marketing agency