Being a follower isn't commonly viewed as a position of power.
I've come to learn that that isn't entirely true. We often talk about teams consisting of leaders and followers.
This sort of binary thinking is dangerous.
In every team there's a need for active conversation to allow growth to take place. This is not only achieved with clear leadership, but purposeful following from members as well.
The word follower is also problematic because it suggests a passive effort. Being a team player gives the individual more agency. But sometimes we can't see that.
While much has been said about how to lead, here's some ways you can exercise authority and leadership as a team player.
Do the work damn well
This comes before everything else. No matter the task assigned to you, be sure to make every concerted effort to produce only the best quality of work.
It will not only show that you are a responsible team player who takes the job seriously but that you're also someone who can be trusted to do more than the bare minimum.
Furthermore, it pays to have a shining track record to lend credibility to your words and actions. It is important to meet this baseline before you can take your influence to the next level.
Hold your leaders accountable
Working under layers of hierarchy doesn't have to be uncomfortable. The key thing to remember is to always to approach any situation with the goal of having the entire team succeed.
It is important to enter the conversation from a solution-oriented standpoint. Having this frame of reference can drastically improve the way you approach team leaders with your feedback and comments.
Everyone, including leaders, needs a nudge in the right direction from time to time and whose to say that can't come from a fellow team player?
Find ways to improve the team
You know how feedback sessions often begin with "How can we do this better for next time?".
Well imagine the possibilities if you could achieve this before everything is said and done.
There's nothing to stop you from making a point to improve the team while work is in progress. As the saying goes, 'If not now, then when?'.
You are in the prime position to add value to the team by using your perspective to identify weak spots before they fester. That "room for improvement" is just waiting to be filled by you.
So, when do I start?
Right now. Take full ownership of your role in any team you belong to with these simple steps:
1. Do the work. Do it good.
2. Keep your leaders on course.
3. Make things better than before.
Always remember that you have so much more to offer as a team player beyond just keeping in step behind the other guy.