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To Lead with no Power!

Is it truley possible to lead when given no power? If your title is only in name can you lead?

Yes, you can lead with no power. Leading is just going before, quiding, showing the way. You can/may lead because of your expertise or experience and therefore are able to quide a group while not having the decision making power that a manager would. Managing does require power - it implies bringing about a change, direction, control - all of which would require a power base at some level.

Leadership is not defined by title, and title does not mean you can lead. People will naturally follow an individual that offers clear vision to a goal and praticies the principles he/she preaches while leading people to these goals. On the other hand, if a person has a leadership title but does not offer clear goals, guidance and expectations, the path to a successful outcome for any project will be very difficult, if not impossible.

Hi Daniel,

You are right on point. A strong leader earns the respect of his or her team, rather than demanding respect simply because of a title.

Make sure your forecast or budget has a well-defined bridge from your current outcomes to your anticipated outcomes. This makes it much easier to lead without power.

Once you get into your project or year, look out the window, and give credit to your team, when things are going well and look in the mirror, and take personal responsibility, when outcomes are below expectations.

Best Regards,


Hi Brenda,

Good points. With great leaders and managers, power or influence is obtained more as a result of day-to-day actions, rather than form an org chart or title.

When a leader spends most of his or her time helping, guiding and supporting the team, members are much more inclined to take direction from that individual.



How do you earn the respect of your team if you are brought into a position from being an equal with them and they have an adversion to being lead by a younger woman?

Bending over backwards doesn't work and often just creates more distention. A heavy handed approach doesn't work well either though it gets things done sometimes. Morale is a tough thing to conquer when a team hates change.

Hi Farley,

Good question. Most leaders face this challenge at some point in their career.

You must earn their respect. Pulling rank never works and you don't want to give them a pass or do their work for them.

You earn their respect by helping them perform at a higher level. Help them analyze their data and identify opportunities or "low hanging fruit" that will make them work smarter, rather than harder.

If you let me know more detail about your job or the areas of responsibility I can give you more specific ideas on how to help your team members.

Best Regards,


I have to say all responses within this forum have been spot on. My experience has been people will gravitate toward the natural leader even if that person does not hold a title. Holding the title of a leader does not mean you are one. That does not mean The titleless leader will not have challanges along the way. Some level of politics usually seems to get in the way. Then there are those individulas with the bruised ego's. Show the way and do it for the right reasons and good things will happen.

Hi Rick,

Thanks for the positive feedback. This understanding and attitude should help you to successfully guide a strong team and develop future leaders.



I agree, you must earn their respect. I succeeded in a similar situation. You have to get right in there with them and show the group how you want it to work. Make individuals responsible and help them take ownership. When they see results they will have personal satisfaction as well as a good feeling of unity with you as the person who led them to the successful results.

Some of the stongest teams I have been on have been collaboative efforts rather than teams that have been appointed and a leader named. Leadership does not always include the power to force others to follow your wills.

In my opinion, the greatest leaders I have worked with are good because they direct rather than dictate the process. Many times the leader of a group of peers will produce a higher quality product than a group directed by a "boss".

On the other side, not having power within a team you are trying to lead can be an issue. Especially when there are several members that have conflicting views or they have no respect for each other. I have been in a few of these teams also and have found that the product of their work tends to come from one side or the other rather than a true team effort.

I found that I could lead with no power simply by doing the same kinds of things that I asked my team to do, not delegating things I didn't want to do, but asking for assistance in doing things and working along side them, then letting them shine when they performed well without my bing there all the time. Encouragement and example was my power, not a title or being a boss. I don't take the position of a boss or even someone with any power. I feel that my team sees that I'm not power hungry either, and they are more willing to step up to that type persons requests.

Thanks for these excellent insights! Based on what you said, I would love to be on your team. Many team leaders feel it necessary to gain power or control, when in reality, leading by example is a much better strategy! Although it sounds like it comes naturally to you, this concept is very foreign to many managers. The book Servant Leadership is a great and quick read on this subject if you want to learn more.

Well done.

I like the question. I find it much easier to lead without a title. People naturally gravitate to those people who gain their respect and trust. When given a title, it cleaves the ability to do that for many reasons. Expectations are higher and some people like to show they can "fight the power" and cast themselves as the underdog are a couple of them.

Why were you put in the position in the first place? because you got things done? because you had incredible organizational skills? because you are/could motivate others? Perhaps because this particular team was stagnant and not moving forward? You can only do what you can do to the best of your abilities. if you were put in this position because you have demonstrated abilities in this area-then just do them. once the team sees some progress they will get it.

Rose Ann,

The best way to motivate a stalled team is for them to see progress. Power is not as important as progress, nor is position. Earning respect by rolling up your sleeves and living the characteristics you possess that earned you the assignment is the best way to get through to team members.
Good luck.

Dr. Jamie Morley

Wow, what a strong statement but I totally agree. I am by nature a strong leader,but do not have a leadership title. On the other hand I need to learn to sit back and lead by letting others take leadership roles which is note easy for me to do. I loved this class and is by far the most challanging and want to utilize what I learned from it.


I am so glad that you enjoyed it. Congratulations!

Dr. Jamie Morley

Yes, it is entirely possible to lead with no title or power. And it is also very possible to have the power or title and not lead. Leadership is steering the group in a productive direction and motivitating them to accomplish goals. In many cases, having power without leadership is detrimental. Most true leaders that I know have a unique ability to gain the respect of their peers and motivate them to move forward. And the most ineffective leaders I know lead by power or intimidation which leads to ineffectiveness. A person with the ability and desire to lead to obtain a better outcome does not necessarily need the power that comes with a position.


There are two schools of thought – one that says leaders are born and one that says that leaders are made. Regardless of your opinion, I agree with your assessment that it does not take a title or power to be a leader. There is a great quote by Russell Ewing that sums it up. “A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions.”

Nice post!

Dr. Jamie Morley

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