Leading Performance Without a Title

by Stacey Barr |

Modern-day wisdom says that nothing changes without leadership from the top. And that’s the excuse many give for not pursuing the changes they know are desperately needed. Performance measurement is one of these changes that is desperately needed, but rarely driven from the top.

Despite this modern-day wisdom, there is overwhelming evidence in support of the idea that anyone can be a leader, no matter their title or position or education or connections.

Let’s hold this to be true. Let’s explore what it might take to lead a performance measurement culture from deep within the bowels of your organisation, where right now you might be suffocating and stumbling around in the dark, waiting for the senior leadership team to open the doors and switch on the lights.

Stop waiting. Reframe your situation to this:

Lead from passion, not position.

It starts with your thoughts, words and actions.

How you think about performance measurement will affect how you feel about it and what you say and do about it. Your first step is get clear about your own beliefs and attitudes about what performance measurement is about and what a performance measurement culture is.

Then your words and actions can follow. Your words include the stories and explanations and advice and questions you reach out to others with. Your actions include how you live your philosophy of performance measurement and how you hold space and hold hands for others to try it too.

When your actions and words and thoughts are aligned and coherent, then…

You develop capability, confidence and credibility.

Capability comes from practicing performance measurement for yourself and with others, in a way that is aligned with your beliefs and attitudes and knowledge about performance measurement. It creates a very powerful personal learning feedback loop, where the results from your actions can reinform your thoughts, and your reinformed thoughts can refine your actions.

Confidence comes from practicing expressing your thoughts about performance measurement to others. This expression might be in the form of questions or advice or stories. The more you practice this, the more you reinforce your own position on performance measurement and the more authority you will feel on the subject.

Credibility comes from practicing what you preach, taking your own advice, living your process. This is role-modeling and when people observe you behaving in the same way you’re inviting them to behave, and see the tremendous results you’re getting, they can’t help but trust you.

Influence comes with practice and time.

When you continue to practice leading from your passion rather than from your position, you’ll have more and more influence. More people will notice you. More people will listen to you. More people will follow you. And that’s the result of good leadership.


If you’re a leader without a title, what are your experiences in getting influence? Please share your story and ideas and learning on the blog!

Speak Your Mind

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  1. Elka Dimitrova says:

    Hi Stacey,
    I don’t want to complain I was such leader many years and I have the same thinking that you have exposed in this article, but the real picture can’t be so perfect as you have shown it.
    When my team leader grasped that I have innovative thinking and what my skills are she started giving me more and more tasks.
    I helped also my team colleagues to do their tasks and to measure their performance correct and meaningful.
    In the beginning I felt myself lucky to have such opportunity to learn so many things and to have almost every day challenges at work, but now after so many years I feel myself exhausted, used up and not satisfied.
    So I don’t think it is possible to lead people without title and without to be manipulative.
    I’m sorry for the not optimistic comment!

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Elka that’s a shame you had that experience. I’m sure you can appreciate that in a blog post there is no way I can relay the entire set of tools and techniques and mindset required to lead without a title. The article merely scratched the surface by offering a model for thinking about it. Leadership is so much more than just influencing others around you to value performance measurement. It’s also about leading yourself and them to live a high-performance philosophy and I suspect that’s what’s missing from your situation. A high-performance philosophy has no place for exhaustion, manipulation, feeling used up and not satisfied. Those are symptoms that something is missing, that measurement has become a task and end in itself rather than a tool to embed excellence at every level, from personal through to organisational.

      • Elka Dimitrova says:

        Thank you for your reply Stacey!
        I know you can’t go into details, I just wanted to share my thoughts about the things you have discussed.
        Kind regards,
        Elka Dimitrova

  2. Great post! The only problem is that you don’t have enough space to write more. You offered this as an idea for those who want to lead their organization to a culture of performance measurement – I’d add (loudly) that even the leaders who have position power should lead with passion rather than relying on their position.

    Without the position, I have tried for years to move those without interest in metrics to using them, while supporting those who want them. I recently changed my tactic to focusing solely on those who want performance measures. I knew I was going at it wrong – a “Heck No” won’t become a yes, no matter how hard I try. I know I should focus on the “Heck Yeses” in my organization and eventually those who are “Yeses” will want to join in – but I fell into the same trap I’ve preached against…trying to get people to change rather than leverage those who are champions.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Marty, I see working with the ‘yeses’ as a strategy for growing your influence with the ‘noes’. We won’t get influence quickly or completely, but absolutely some of the ‘noes’ will see what the ‘yeses’ are doing and will get enough curiosity to put their hands up too. No doubt you’ve experienced this. We’ve all seen people change their minds when they see how something has worked for others.

  3. Natalie says:

    I agree with your post however, I think the devil is in the detail. The challenge can present itself when you require access to data and the data gatekeepers do not support your work. This is a “kill order” and difficult to overcome without strategic relations and senior leadership support.

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Leading performance without a title includes growing your influence with data gatekeepers too. Why don’t they support your work? What are they afraid of losing if they were to collaborate with you? What do they stand to gain if they did collaborate with you? What about their world don’t you understand yet? How well are you able to help them through your work? How can you improve your relationship with them? How patient are you in trying to build this relationship so it truly is based on mutual gain? Do you understand their objections from their point of view and can you reframe them?

  4. Paul says:

    Just in time. Thanks. I am in the process of trying to open Middle Management’s eyes. They know they want measures but I don’t think they know why? I guess Upper Management told them they want it.

    How would you balance leading without a title with /5-steps-to-win-executive-support-for-kpis/

    • Stacey Barr says:

      Paul, the article https://staceybarr.com/measure-up/5-steps-to-win-executive-support-for-kpis/ is a good example of leading without a title. It’s you taking the initiative to engage leaders in a discussion to influence them to the point of giving you enough support to do a pilot performance measurement implementation. You aren’t waiting for them to ‘come around’, you’re bringing the opportunity to them. And if it fails, you’ll have learned more about what does and does not work in influencing others. So you’d then turn to other potential champions in the organisation, perhaps a manager who really gets it or a team that has a specific problem you can help solve via performance measurement.

  5. michael says:

    We all start from the same place, behind, that is, our behind in a chair. it is from this view that we must all begin. I find that there are three elements required to coexist with sufficient mass in order to produce the momentum needed to get me off my behind and into the ring. Dissatisfaction, Insight, Energy.

    Dissatisfaction: let’s face it, until i am uncomfortable, i simply will not change. change, lasting change occurs when there is a derived benefit over time. How to Influence: ask the questions: where are the problems? the felt pain points in your business? where are the felt choke points, bottlenecks? etc…

    Insight: I may be feeling pain, but without insight, i am stuck. Insight is related to a future state of where you and the business want to be. without knowledge the people perish. you can offer knowledge and insight to people, but until they combine it with dissatisfaction and energy, they just tend to tuck it away in a file cabinet, never to be recalled until it’s too late.

    Energy: simply put, do i have enough internal resources, absence of external distractions to handle all the required wranglings of change? I can feel pain and discomfort of my current situtation, i may even have the insight i need to provide the direction for change, but i simply am not able to gather the energy and resources needed to do it, at least not yet.

    i find these three elements coincide with your model quite well.

    just some very preliminary thoughts,


    • Stacey Barr says:

      Nice, Michael. Your thoughts remind me of John Kotter’s book, ‘A Sense of Urgency’. If these are your preliminary thoughts, and you end up writing more about it, I’d love to hear from you.

  6. Mike Butler says:

    “You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader” – Henry Ford

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