At its very core, leadership is about inspiring others to work towards a common purpose, one defined by shared values. However, often there is a misplaced perception that making an impact within your workplace can only happen from formally defined positions of leadership. The reality is we are all leaders in our roles, and can all be change-makers within our organisation by combining the core attributes of leadership with our specialist knowledge.

Formal and informal – what’s the difference?

Where formal leaders have an organisational authority to direct a group towards a structured goal, informal leadership is characterised by peer collaboration, whether it happens consciously or unconsciously. This collaboration occurs across different levels of a workplace hierarchy, and helps to cement a set of shared values and goals.

There can be many informal leaders within a single organisation, across different teams and disciplines. These informal leaders are drivers of change within a business, and flourish when supported though formal investment in structures that allow employees to develop into leaders.

Leadership attributes for the digital industry – how can we use them?

In 2019 we (Lizzie & Tiana) participated in NextGen, a bespoke global leadership program, created in partnership with Google and the Dentsu Aegis Network. The course is designed to equip leaders of the future with the tools and mindset to embrace emerging opportunities in digital marketing. All modules are delivered with a focus on driving valuable change through collaboration and leading by example. This course gave us the opportunity to learn new ways to become change-makers in our workplace through informal leadership.

Google’s Squared Online content discussed four leadership attributes during the 2019 NextGen program that are crucial to consider when aiming to drive change within the digital industry.

Squared Leadership Attributes:

1.       Customer first – put the customer at the heart of everything you do.

2.       Collaborative – engage others across functions and organisational structures.

3.       Digital Champion – embrace the changing complexities and capabilities of digital structures.

4.       Innovative – apply fresh ideas and take calculated risks.

Putting our learnings into practice

Since beginning at iProspect, we have both had the opportunity to act as formal and informal leaders. This has given us the chance to expand our overall knowledge of the digital marketing landscape, and upskill across-disciplines. Working within an environment that welcomes collaboration across all levels of the business has allowed us to put these leadership attributes into practice.

By always taking a customer-centric approach to your work, you can lead others within your team to ensure that they also are primarily considering the customers’ needs when making decisions, as this is something that can sometimes be lost behind busy schedules and tight deadlines.

This combined with the ability to keep up with new technological advances and incorporate them into your team’s work output positions you as an informal leader, influencing the way that technology is used to drive performance.

Championing this within your team is a starting point, but openly communicating this approach to extend beyond your team is where leadership is really shown.

Collaborating with other departments such as paid media and SEO teams, allows for an integrated approach where all members of the organisation are informed, driving change on a larger scale for a cohesive output across clients.

These experiences have highlighted how inhabiting positions of leadership, both formally defined and otherwise, at each stage of your career can give value to an individual, and, by extension, the wider team.

What can everyone do?

iProspect offers opportunities, including NextGen, to invest in developing your skill set to drive progression and formalise a position of leadership. However, becoming a leader at any level can happen from day one.

Whatever stage you are at in your career:

  • Take advantage of the breadth of knowledge iProspect’s platforms make available – whether it involves applying for structured courses such as NextGen, or making time to include training modules in your schedule.
  • Share your knowledge with new starters, or other teams to upskill those who work in other disciplines and drive cross-channel collaboration.
  • Be the person others look to for inspiration by sharing client learnings and strategies across the organisation.
  • Get involved in Thought Leadership initiatives, and drive innovation by joining product steering groups.
  • Better your workplace culture by living the values and identifying areas of expansion of current initiatives.

Both formal and informal leaders are key to driving digital transformation within an organisation, however, leadership is not necessarily linked to hierarchy. Putting your hand up is the first step; where opportunity exists, there is the possibility to lead by example and influence change.

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Lizzie Stockdale-Williamson and Tiana Kustura

Lizzie is a Digital Strategist at iProspect Melbourne, specialising in SEO. She is a recent graduate of Google's Squared Online leadership program, and a member of the iProspect National Experience (SEO) Steering Group and Culture Committee. Tiana is a Paid Social Lead now working at iProspect in New York. Tiana is enthusiastic and self-motivated, and is a firm believer in collaboration over competition.