You’ve probably seen reverse in action: when someone not in a formal leadership role demonstrates great leadership ability, Scott Edinger, founder of Edinger Consulting Group, observes. “Reverse leadership doesn’t replace regular leadership. Nor is it a sign that the official leaders in an organization are doing a bad job. Quite the contrary. Rarely does strong leadership ability show up at lower levels in the hierarchy if senior leaders aren’t very effective in their roles.”
Edinger says he is seeing reverse leaders more often, but few organizations cultivate their talents to gain a competitive advantage.
Do you have the makings of a reverse leader? Here’s what administrative professionals should ask of themselves.
• Do you have strong? “Reverse leaders lead through influence, not authority, and they gain that influence by making strong interpersonal connections. To do that they must be self-aware enough to understand the effect their words and actions have on other people,” Edinger writes.
• Do you focus more on results than on process? “Anyone can follow the process, as the old saying goes, but it takes leadership to know when to break from it. Reverse leaders don’t break rules simply to be rebellious. They break them because they’re focused on the outcomes rather than the process for producing outcomes,” Edinger writes. For example, Admin Eileen Behr told her bosses, “Every time you mark your billable time as overhead, you might be doing my job. It opened their eyes to the ways I could help them. Now they know that they can give me a task and it will be taken care of.”
• Do you exhibit a high degree of integrity? “To lead by example requires integrity of character,” writes Edinger. “People who have a choice would rather follow those who say the same thing up the chain as they do with their peers, those who are consistent in their approach in dealing with problems in different circumstances.”
Online resource: Read more about how Eileen Behr, an Office Team Administrative Excellence Award winner, added value to her team as a reverse leader at "Adding value, no matter where you sit."
— Adapted from “Find the Reverse Leaders in Your Midst,” Scott Edinger, HBR.org.