In the new era of remote and freelance work, the face of leadership in the workplace is rapidly changing.
As a freelancer or independent consultant, you may not manage anyone directly. Or, you might manage a loose network of freelancers that remain fairly autonomous. You may be part of one or more remotely distributed teams that have little hierarchy.
The traditional power structure is breaking down.
At my previous startups, I focused on developing my leadership skills. I kept my finger on the pulse of my company and made decisions to drive the team forward. Surrounded by inspiring leaders, I grew as a mentor to others.
Just because I’m now working for myself doesn’t mean leadership is no longer relevant. In fact, it’s more important than ever before.
There’s a lot of content out there on how traditional companies can manage remote workers, but very little on how independent workers can become stronger leaders themselves.
How can we practice leadership in nontraditional careers, when we might not be part of a team in person?
Here are 8 ways you can be a leader as a solopreneur or remote worker:
Think of your career as a business – As an independent worker, your entire career is your business. You’re in charge of the change you want to create in the world. You’re responsible for setting the vision for your business and making sure that your mission drives your work. I write about how you can create a business plan for your career here.
Get clear(er) about your life’s mission – In the future of work, more people are taking advantage of the freedom to align their daily work with their life’s work. Think about the values you want to live by, and only choose work (ie. clients and projects) that align with your mission.
Be a leader in your coworking space – Your office may now be made up of people working on vastly different companies, but this doesn’t mean you no longer contribute to its culture. It’s natural to feel less loyalty and engagement since you’re not part of one team. But you’ll be surprised how much camaraderie you can create by caring for your fellow members. Make friends, host events, and seek or offer mentorship. Even if you might travel onward to a new coworking space in a few weeks, invest in relationships that you want to keep for the long-term.
Start a side project and lead it – Start a side project that allows you to explore your interests and passions.
Ask people for advice, and share it with those you think can help make an impact. Recruit a few people to help you, and slowly build a supportive community around it. When you create from the heart, you have the power to change the world. And, it’s a great way to attract dream clients.
Hold yourself to a high standard – Lead by setting relentlessly high standards for yourself in your work, as well as for those you work with. Stand for clear communication, constructive feedback, and honesty in your interactions. Be accountable to your promises. Then, empower those you work with to meet your standards. Conduct yourself with warmth and professionalism in your coworking space as well.
Create your own peer support team – One of the advantages of traditional careers is having your own built-in support network at work. It’s easier to make plans and become friends with your colleagues. As a remote worker, it’s up to you to curate your tribe. Attend local events that interest you and follow up with people who click. Invest in digital relationships. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who inspire you via email or Twitter. I did, and it was magical.
Invest in your personal growth – Your business and services are only as good as you are. Surround yourself with people who inspire you, because they will help push you to grow. Keep improving your skills so that your business can rise to the next level. This includes taking care of your mental health, noticing and treating signs of burnout, and building a strong support network.
Take risks and think outside the box – Despite all of the social pressures and internal fears that come up in your career, strive to stay true to yourself. By crafting your own independent career, you’re already leading a life away from the pack. Follow the beat of your drum. Continue to question social norms and take a hard look at the fixed beliefs that may be holding you back. You can define what success means to you!
And so, you can define what leadership means to you. With more freedom in your career comes more freedom to choose where you want to be a leader, and how. Be thoughtful about the people you work with, the clients you choose, and the projects you invest in.
And even more important than your career, be a leader of the life you want to live.
What are some ways you practice leadership?