Why ‘You Don’t Need to Be in Charge to Lead,’ According to This CEO

By Samantha Samel via Fairygodboss

Whether you’re in an entry level or senior role at work, chances are you don’t often feel like you’re in the position to change the way your company functions. But you should, according to Claudia Chan, CEO of S.H.E. Summit and author of “How We Rise.”

“No matter where you’re at, you don’t need to be in charge to lead,” she said during a recent webinar hosted by Fairygodboss Co-Founder Romy Newman. “You can be a junior person and [still] make an impact somehow. We’re born to be extraordinary; we’re all here to really become change agents. What that means is being driven by something bigger than just you.”

And, as Newman pointed out, if you take action toward improving your workplace, whether you’re trying to enhance parental leave benefits or close the gender pay gap, “your organization will thank you. Your CEO will thank you. These are big issues, and as most corporations want to move to gender diversity, grassroots efforts are deeply appreciated. This will also grow your visibility as someone who can make things happen.”

How can you become a corporate change agent at your company and leave a lasting impact beyond what’s written up in your job description? Here are six strategies Chan swears by:

1. Identify what’s motivating you.

Becoming a change agent is about legacy, Chan explained. “Wake up and root yourself not in your to-do list, but consider ‘What mark am I meant to make?’ Our job is to experience the world, but also to contribute and give back.”

If you have a full-time job that pays you well, but your purpose bucket isn’t really being fulfilled at work, figure out [what will fill that void, whether] writing a blog, creating content, or supporting a friend’s nonprofit,” Chan said, adding that you can consider leadership paths at work that you may not be on your radar, such as leading a women’s network.

2. Don’t spread yourself too thin.

Chan advises identifying just a few key areas you want to focus on for a certain period of time, and then removing — and learning to say no to — everything else. “Treat your whole life as the organization you’re leading,” she said. “Think of it as different departments [your career, your kids, your marriage, your finances], and at any given time, depending on where you’re at, you’re not focused on every department. If you know you might be up for a raise, your career should be a priority for that 3-to-6-month period.”

3. Learn more about others and focus on empathy.

When you don’t see eye-to-eye with someone at work, try to learn more about where that person is coming from before reacting. “One leadership trait is to think about things not just from your perspective,” Chan said. “You never know where someone is coming from. Be empathetic and humbled and be the bigger person. And take a collaborative approach with that person.”

4. Include men.

When we talk about advancing gender equality, we need to make sure we’re not excluding men from the conversation; after all, they’re a huge part of the solution. “There’s a rise of men’s organizations right now doing inclusive male leadership workshops,” Chan explained. “Those need to start happening in companies as well as current ERGs for women.”

5. Engage the right people.

After you identify what’s important to you, spend some time thinking about how your office culture could be better. Is your company really walking their talk? Chan suggests thinking about who you need to approach — whether an HR or Diversity & Inclusion leader — to speak to to slowly start growing a movement.

6. Take care of yourself.

Prioritize self-care and being kind to yourself. “We’ll service everybody before we service ourselves. Self-care is not just about eating well and exercising; it’s also about your mental health.”

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, a leading career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.