One of the hardest positions to embrace is being the person who needs to drive change or lead a team when you’re not the boss. That’s where true leaders and team players have their skills put to the ultimate test. It can be pretty tough, and it’s that moment when you might realize that relationships really do matter – a lot.

Managers have it easy: when your boss asks you to do something, you kinda gotta to do it. It’s part of your job and they’re the ones at the end of the day either signing your check or sending you on your way. Everyone wants to please their bosses. Hopefully, said bosses don’t actually approach their teams with a stick and a demand, but truly lead by gaining alignment, trust, and buy-in, but that’s a conversation for another day, and one we’ll certainly spend some time on later.

For now, think about what happens when you’re not the boss. What happens when you’re tasked with implementing a program or a strategy for a group that falls outside of your chain of command? Your leadership skills need to kick in more than ever, and you’ll have to rely on the relationships you’ve built along the way to make it happen.

Your professional reputation precedes you in so many ways, and to align any key group, you’ll need to make sure you’ve stayed true to who you are and built a strong foundation of character, success, and teamwork. They may not trust you because they haven’t had a chance to work with you yet, and that’s okay. It’s your job to earn their trust and make sure it’s abundantly clear that you’re truly in this game for the right reasons – for their reasons, not yours. When you lead with integrity and genuinely believe in what the team is after, it will all come together.

Let’s be honest…deep down, I hope that’s how you operate every day, regardless of any org chart or reporting structure. When you’re a leader, you inspire people, help them succeed, listen to their needs, and embrace their growth and best interests every day. You don’t have to be the boss to make good things happen. Who you should be is the trusted professional who brings a positive outlook, a can-do approach, a willingness to learn, and a sense of partnership. Good things happen when we work with good people; we get it done together. That’s teamwork and true leadership.

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