The Titleless Leader: How to Get Things Done When You're Not in Charge

The Titleless Leader: How to Get Things Done When You're Not in Charge

by Nan S. Russell
The Titleless Leader: How to Get Things Done When You're Not in Charge

The Titleless Leader: How to Get Things Done When You're Not in Charge

by Nan S. Russell

Paperback(First Edition)

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How people work, communicate, collaborate, and manage responsibilities has changed. Knowing how to build influence and lead others without title or authority, no matter what your role, is now a workplace necessity.

No one needs to appoint you, promote you, or nominate you. You decide. It's not rank that will get you results; its the actions.

In The Titleless Leader, you will discover uncommon behaviors that will enable you to:
  • Operate with trust in an era of distrust and growing cynicism
  • Activate your titleless leadership practice by using "what-does-it-look-like?" approaches and "how-does-it happen?" tips, exercises, and insights
  • Engage yourself and others using the cornerstones of self-alignment, soul-courage, possibility seeds, and winning philosophies

    Using the revolutionary tactics laid out in The Titleless Leader, you'll turbocharge your career and discover how to get things done...even without a title.

  • Product Details

    ISBN-13: 9781601632081
    Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
    Publication date: 05/22/2012
    Edition description: First Edition
    Pages: 256
    Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)

    About the Author

    Nan S. Russell has shared her workplace insights and practical wisdom with a wide variety of people, from coal miners and Navy engineers to college students and senior leaders at nonprofits and Fortune 100 corporations, igniting passions, crystallizing thinking, and changing results. She's a national speaker, consultant, and radio host, the award-winning author of Hitting Your Stride, a blogger for, and the job-loss recovery expert for Her column, "Winning at Working," can be found in more than 90 publications. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. from the University of Michigan. She lives with her husband in northwestern Montana.

    Read an Excerpt


    Operating With Trust

    "I would rather be the man who bought the Brooklyn Bridge than the man who sold it."

    — Will Rogers

    The schemes emerged as soon as construction ended on the East River Bridge in 1883. George C. Parker received credit for initiating the "selling of the Brooklyn Bridge" scam, convincing those who fell for his polished pitch they could make a fortune charging tolls for bridge access. Parker claimed he "sold the Brooklyn Bridge twice a week for years." Eventually that approach landed him in prison for life.

    A hundred and thirty years later, it's even harder to figure out what to believe and whom to trust. We live in a time where it's difficult to differentiate a real photograph from one created by computer wizardry, where falling for a phishing hoax poses financial risks, and the 21st-century equivalents of selling the Brooklyn Bridge fill headlines and e-mails. The increasing complexity of the world impedes our judgment of real or not real, scam or opportunity, trust or no trust.

    These are just more reasons why operating with trust is the most important component of titleless leadership. But the key reason comes from a Towers Watson's Global Workforce Study which found, "the number-one trait workers want in their leaders is trustworthiness," adding the sobering statistic that only 12 percent of respondents said their leaders were.

    In small businesses, non-profits, not-for-profits, and multibillion-dollar enterprises, people want to work for, with, and around people they can trust. But what does that mean in the context of your work? How do you operate with trust in an era of distrust and growing cynicism? What is work trust anyway? And most importantly, how do you get it? That's what this chapter is about. It's light on theoretical; heavy on practical.

    Where trust meets the road

    Where would you rate yourself on the trust equation? Would you rather be the person who sold the Brooklyn Bridge or the one who bought it? That question is where the proverbial rubber meets the road, not just for this chapter's topic, but for the book's. Titleless leadership and natural followership emerge from trust.

    So, if you happen to know a George C. Parker–type person, scheming to sell today's equivalent of the Brooklyn Bridge, dangling carrots or half-truths to deceive staff or clients, or taking shortcuts or devising schemes for personal gain, I'll be blunt: this isn't for you. People don't choose to follow people who want to manipulate them, deceive them, or lie to them. People don't give their ideas, discretionary efforts, enthusiasm, or best work to people they don't trust.

    What you need to know about trust

    Trust is a misunderstood word at work. And while it might be interesting to consider why, what work trust is and isn't, or what happens when it's broken, are topics for a different book.

    In fact, there's a chapter on those issues in my book, Hitting Your Stride, called, "A Practice of Trust." That chapter is available as a download for you (see additional resources in Chapter 15).

    When I refer to trust, I mean authentic trust, also called relationship trust. Bottom line? Authentic trust comes from authentic people, and those who effectively lead without title or authority are authentic people. More about that in Part 2: From the Inside: How Does It Happen? Grounded in self-awareness, well-intentioned and consistent behaviors, and commitments honored and fulfilled, their actions enable others to have confidence in them and the relationship.

    Snippets about authentic trust

    * Trust begins with trust. Contrary to popular belief, you don't get trust because you earn it; you get it because you give it. Trust is a verb. It's an action. Giving trust is a choice or judgment you make when you put confidence in or rely on someone else. Trust begins by giving trust, just like love begins by loving, respect by respecting others, and communication by sharing information.

    * Trust involves risk. It's how, when, and to whom trust is given that determines a positive or negative outcome. That means assessing risks and benefits, along with conditionality. You might trust a computer tech to remove a virus, but not plan your wedding. Charles Feltman in The Thin Book of Trust, defines work trust as: "choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person's actions."

    * Trust builds relationships. Authentic trust happens in relationships. Authentic trust is built only when there's a commitment to the relationship. When the relationship is more important than any single outcome, reciprocity is central to support and exchange, and mutual commitments are delivered without personal advantage or attempted manipulation or control, trust grows.

    The other side: being trusted

    By definition, trust as a relationship builder means there's two sides. Will people trust you, follow you, and be in a sustained work relationship with you? It's one thing for you to give trust, but what happens in return? Are you worthy of your coworker's trust?

    In a University of Nebraska Management Department paper on authentic leadership, the authors' definition is worth noting: "[Authentic Leadership] is a process by which leaders are deeply aware of how they think and behave, of the context in which they operate, and are perceived by others as being aware of their own and others' values/moral perspectives, knowledge, and strengths." That kind of self-awareness applies to titleless leaders as well.

    Consider this self-reflective exercise, giving thought to your actions at work, and determine if what you see would be perceived as trust-building or trust-busting.

    Trust footings

    Mobile workers. Flatter organizations. More work. Less people. Technology advances. Shared resources. Ad hoc teams. Matrix reporting. Result-based performance. Reduced budgets. Increased expectations. Fluid direction. Custom solutions. Global economy. These issues face us at work. But in two, three, or five years, there'll be different challenges and issues. Change, innovation, and growth orientation is the new normal.

    Consider how important authentic trust is under these circumstances. Recognizing those who can be trusted, worked with, and followed is an essential skill for anyone's career. Getting results, building natural followership, and leading people who don't report to you will be the norm, too. As such, these skills and behaviors become even more important to master.

    Operating with trust is the foundation of a titleless leader. But it's a little more complicated (you knew that, right!), than the words might imply. Let's take a look.

    Trust Essentials for Titleless Leaders

    * Performance Trust: the fulfillment of a claim, promise, or request. Some label it integrity, some walk-the-talk; others openness and honesty, or accountability. I call it performance trust. It's the result of all these, but competence is the starting point. People want to follow those who do what they say they can do, do it well, and enable and engage others' strengths along the way.

    * Self-Trust: the reliance on self, confidence in self and actions. Self-trust means trusting your intentions, motives, and integrity. It's meeting expectations and keeping your word. It involves self-esteem and self-confidence. It's hard to trust others if you don't trust yourself. Lack of self-trust can be at the center of distrusting others. You're unlikely to be viewed by others as trustworthy, if you don't view yourself that way. But self-trust goes beyond that. Solomon and Flores in Building Trust in Business, Politics, Relationships, and Life, define self-trust as "the ability to trust one's self to trust wisely and authentically."

    * Relationship Trust: the way of operating grounded in authentic trust. I agree with Booker T. Washington who said, "Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know you trust him." But I would add, few things help relationship building more than authentic trust. Those who get results keep relationships central. Relationship trust is not an absolute, but operates in shades of gray, keeping in perspective what matters for the relationship. It leaves open the possibility that broken trust could be rebuilt. Trust is not glue that holds a relationship together, but a way of operating. Relationship trust is started, built, and evolves through your well-intentioned and ongoing actions.

    The how: operating with trust

    The formula is simple. If you want to operate with trust and create a trusting work environment, pay attention to yourself, and to your intentions, actions, commitments, and behaviors. Of course, that's common sense for any part of life. Trust is not blind or unconditional, and it's not without risk. But it is an essential choice for titleless leaders.

    However, sometimes we're blind to the impact our actions have, or we operate under stress with impaired self-awareness, unintentionally diminishing trust in the process. I experienced that recently as a conference speaker. I arrived early to get a better understanding of the audience before my presentation. Waiting outside the auditorium for the morning's general session to begin, I watched the event coordinator arrive for what appeared to be a planned inspection.

    Hotel waitstaff stood behind the food tables as he walked the breakfast setup. No good morning, hello, or how are you to the crew who would deliver service on behalf of his client. No thank you acknowledgement for creating an inviting space for the several thousand soon-to-arrive guests. In fact, he attempted no personal connection at all. His first words were, "I hate it," pointing to a flower arrangement. "Move it," he said. After barking orders of what to change "immediately," he was gone.

    You can imagine how enthusiastic and engaged everyone was by the first guests' arrival. I'm not suggesting insincere praise or faux-friendliness, which is as transparent as bubble wrap and as trust-diminishing as a lie. But what the event coordinator failed to understand was his personal impact on the group's performance and motivation.

    Whatever relationship he might have had with staff was diminished or reinforced that day. His approach did nothing to help people bring the best of who they are to their work, to their guests, or to build repeat business. It also did nothing to evolve a trusting relationship, or ignite natural followers.

    According to a Harvard Business School article, employee "dissatisfaction is at a 23-year all-time low," with unhappiness rates as high as 82 percent. Maybe that event coordinator is among them. One thing is certain: the staff he interacts with is part of that statistic.

    It doesn't have to be like that. Individuals who effectively lead, with or without title, understand people work for people, not for companies. They help others do their best work by creating pockets of trust where people can shine. And these trust-pockets are where you'll find the remaining 18 percent of employees — the satisfied, committed, fully engaged ones.

    You can create your own pocket of trust at work. There are three keys to building relationship trust. Operating with trust is a skill and like most skills, it takes a bit of time, practice, and focus to develop.

    KEY #1: Give trust first

    Think of giving trust like turning on a dimmer switch. You start with a little light, and gradually turn the light brighter to fit your needs. If you turn it up too bright, you can turn it down and adjust the level.

    Giving trust is like that. Rather than an on-off light switch operating as the equivalent of "I trust you or I don't trust you," authentic trust evolves incrementally over time. Central to increasing the trust level is accountability from the other person in the relationship. Here's how it works:

    * Start on low. Early in a new work relationship, you might say, "Run it by me first." If that happens, move forward, giving more trust as it makes sense according to impact risk, project needs, experience, and communication levels.

    * Move to medium. Things are operating well. Accountability is clearly demonstrated by the other person, so you adjust the trust level, something like, "Keep me posted on what you're doing." If you're receiving status reports, meetings, or updates you're comfortable with, you add more trust.

    * Higher and higher. Adjust the trust level upward as the results and relationship prosper. Eventually, extremely high trust relationships operate with something such as, "Let me know if you get into trouble or need my help." Even at very high trust levels, communication updates remain essential for keeping each other current and connected on issues.

    * Lower and lower. Sometimes turning back the dimmer switch and reducing trust is needed. This may happen because the accountability of the person has slipped, but more often it occurs when project requirements or delivery has changed. Then, it can be important to regroup and refocus a closer involvement for a time. Relationships built on trust understand that trust levels can fluctuate. It's not a personal issue, but a business issue that typically drives the fluctuation; for example, reorganizations, accelerated deadlines, redirection, or new initiatives.

    But giving trust first is not just an individual or team process where a dimmer switch approach fosters a strong and effective work relationship. Giving trust first is a way of thinking and operating. It's a big team mindset. Here's an example of how titleless leaders can build trust currency and increase followers using something I call an African Heads-up:

    It didn't take long, while on safari in Botswana, to recognize animal calls heralding a predator roaming the area. The shrieks of baboons, the trumpeting of elephants, the screams of francolins, and the cries of impalas were picked up by adjacent animals and sent out for as long as the threat remained.

    In that predatory/prey world, survival depends on heeding and passing on warning calls. It's nature's heads-up. While you're not in danger of being eaten, work harm still lurks, and a heads-up can reduce the frequency of encountering it and confirm that you have coworkers you can trust to save you stress, mistakes, and wrong turns.

    While most pass on warnings to same-team teammates, they infrequently cross imaginary boundaries. Accounting, IT, marketing, customer support all may be affected by information you know, but silo parameters hamper communicating to them. Too many think of personal survival and small departmental herds, instead of organizational survival and large-group thriving.

    But those who get results without title are big team players. They think beyond self. Operating with trust, they help others succeed. They sound the heads-up, passing along warnings when they get them. They believe only if the organization does well will people thrive. That simple heads-up gesture sets them apart and builds trust in their intentions. Titleless leaders give as many heads-up as they can. As poet and author, Maya Angelou, so aptly put it, "Nobody, but nobody, can make it out here alone."

    KEY #2: Effectively communicate

    The rules have changed. Hoarding information, withholding pertinent facts and perspectives, or hiding or misleading others is old thinking about how to gain influence and success. People who think like that also believe followers automatically come with a title. The bigger your title, the more followers, right? Not anymore.

    In this era when intellectual property is the competitive edge for most organizations, information must be shared. But what information can or should be shared? With whom? How often? How much? The following tips offer practical ways to build trust by what you communicate and how you communicate it. They're intended as a sampling of concepts affecting communication and trust building.


    Excerpted from "The Titleless Leader"
    by .
    Copyright © 2012 Nan S. Russell.
    Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

    Table of Contents

    Introduction 11

    Part 1 From the Outside: What Does It Look Like?

    Chapter 1 Operating With Trust 21

    Chapter 2 Better Together 37

    Chapter 3 The Whole Person 51

    Chapter 4 Using Differences 67

    Chapter 5 Making It Personal 83

    Chapter 6 Dependable Politics 97

    Chapter 7 Painting Pictures 111

    Chapter 8 Cornerstone Behaviors 121

    Part 2 From the Inside: How Does It Happen?

    Chapter 9 Sharing Your Gifts and Passion 133

    Chapter 10 Being Ego-Detached 147

    Chapter 11 Becoming an Independent Thinker 157

    Chapter 12 Expecting the Best 169

    Chapter 13 Transitioning After Change 179

    Chapter 14 Facing in the Right Direction 189

    Part 3 From the Practical Side: When?

    Chapter 15 Implications for Your Work 205

    Notes 215

    Index 227

    About the Author 233

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