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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

3 Ways to Overcome the Difficulties of “Assumed Leadership”

Recently on the Being Brown at Work Live, I had the honor of speaking with Amelia Roberts. She’s a visibility expert and digital marketing consultant, and I was so interested in her thoughts about how we deal with assumed leadership in the workplace. Tune into the podcast to hear the whole conversation, but in the meantime, I’ve compiled a few of her teachings into a blog post. Enjoy!

Have you ever been in a situation where you were with a colleague of a different race, age, or gender, and someone made an assumption about the working relationship between you and that person? Maybe you were with an older man, and the newcomer assumed the older man was the higher ranking person. These moments can be incredibly awkward (and sometimes upsetting!) if the assumed relationship reflects an internalized bias.

This is an example of assumed leadership: two people with different life identities are assumed to have different power levels based entirely around an identifier that neither of them can change.

This is particularly harmful to Black and Brown women in the workplace because it may cause those in positions of authority to overlook us. If you find yourself in a workplace that overlooks you, you may be in a situation where you're not an assumed leader. So how do we deal with this?

You're already a leader.

If you're in a workplace where you're not an assumed leader, it's important to remember that this is just a perception, not the truth. Your boss's boss might not think immediately to tap you for that next level promotion, but that doesn't mean you're not exerting influence and leadership in your role. I think we all know those people who don't formally have a manager title, but who keep a department running more than anyone else.

Develop your ecosystem of support.

Amelia stresses the importance of developing a web of professional support that includes people in all areas of your life; a cleaning person, a nanny, a dog walker, a mentor, a career coach, your family and friends are all critical people that help you to navigate your career. We need help, and it can't all come from one area of our lives. Having a network of support can give you the bandwidth you need to focus on improving a certain aspect of your career without letting other priorities drop.

Develop relationships.

If you've read any of my blogs or listened to my podcast, you know how important relationships are to me. When it comes to getting ahead at work, developing those mutually beneficial relationships with colleagues by making the effort and going the extra mile can make a world of difference. A good professional network in your company will give you someone in the room who can advocate for you when you're not there, so that even if your leadership team doesn’t think of your name for a leadership opportunity, someone else in the room will.

Recognizing the work you’re already doing, developing your ecosystem, and creating a network of supportive colleagues will help you stand firm in your worth and reach that next level goal.

You might also like to read my free guide, “Workplace Confidence for Black and Brown Women,” which I created to help Black and Brown women in the workplace overcome their stumbling blocks and identify their strengths.

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