The global economy has turned the rules of leadership upside down, and shaken them vigorously for good measure. Once there was a fairly defined hierarchy: Boss A would tell Worker B what to do, and Worker B would do it. Now, there's a flat landscape where everyone is expected to take the reins as needed. That means if Worker B has an idea—a way to make a process more efficient or a new way to get customer feedback—he or she is allowed, even expected, to make it happen.
In other words, everyone is now a leader. This is great news for entrepreneurially minded employees, but it poses a challenge for anyone who wants to create change but doesn't "officially" run the show. That does not mean employee-led changes cannot succeed. You may not have the resource commitment that your boss has, but you can be proactive—and successful—if you have a clear vision and a firm commitment. Being an advocate for change, regardless of your place in the organizational chart, can put you in the position of being a team leader—and someone who has great career potential.
If you'd like to start sparking positive change within your organization, here are 10 ways to be proactive:
Align individual priorities with organizational goals. No matter where you work, it's likely that your organization has overarching change goals it is working to meet. Don't just wait to be told what to do—look at those goals and figure out what you can do as an individual employee to support them. For instance, if your company is acquiring another to strengthen its product line, one of your individual priorities might be to learn more about that company, its customers, and what it does. You could even ask your manager to present your ideas on how these findings will impact your team. When you make the link between what you do on a day-to-day basis and how that can support the overall change initiative, you're showing dedication and demonstrating that you want to help. This understanding works well during any type of company-wide process or technological change, because you can begin to recommend better ways of doing what you already do.
Learn to live with ambiguity. If you're not running the show (or even if you are) there will usually be uncertainty during change. Perhaps the leaders have not answered all your questions because not all of the details have been worked out yet. Or, executives may have legal obligations that restrict the release of information. The point is, sometimes it's in your best interest to roll with the ambiguity.
Raise your concerns and ideas, if you have them, but then keep focused on the task at hand. If you feel that ambiguity is disturbing the workplace or if you see executives ignoring real concerns, let your manager know the downstream impact in a polite yet firm manner.