It sounds obvious. Nevertheless, improving your leadership skills will positively impact your organization. Is this still true if you aren’t a boss or supervisor? Are you still capable of leading?
Yes, without a doubt. This is known as peer leadership. In fact, many of these pear leader traits can be learned by anyone, primarily through peer leadership.
Additionally, as W.C.H. Prentice wrote in HBR, an effective leader is one “who can understand people’s motivations and enlist employee participation in a way that marries individual needs and interests to the group’s purpose.”
Despite their limited authority, peer leaders can change things like processes, expectations, and education despite their limitations. For peers to lead, they should intentionally change their behavior. It is definitely worth the effort to go through this internal process of change.
It is rare that peer leaders can affect changes to external factors like processes, expectations, or education. They can, however, change their own behavior by consciously doing so. You need motivation and discipline to transform yourself internally, but it pays off in the long run.
Peer Leadership Explained
Peer leadership refers to leadership by individuals who are not in authority positions. A variety of settings can host peer leaders, including schools, workplaces, and community groups.
A peer leader is typically a peer with whom they share common challenges. As a result, they can build trust and rapport, both of which are essential for effective leadership. Compared to traditional leaders, peer leaders are often more approachable and relatable, which makes them more effective motivators and inspirers.
Some common peer leadership goals are:
- Encourage members of the group to develop their social and emotional skills.
- Assisting group members in achieving their goals.
- Creating an inclusive and supportive environment.
- The development of peer leadership skills.
There are many different roles that peer leaders can play within a group, such as:
- Role model. In addition to setting a positive example for group members, peer leaders can also display good behavior.
- Mentor. Peer leaders can provide guidance and support to struggling group members.
- Facilitator. Peer leaders can assist in organizing and leading group activities.
- Advocate. In addition to advocating for group members’ interests, peer leaders can speak up for their needs.
In order to promote positive change in a group, peer leadership can be a powerful tool. By encouraging peers to lead, we can develop their leadership skills, foster community relations, and enhance their community impact.
Benefits of Peer Leadership
Both leaders and those they serve benefit from peer leadership.
- An increase in motivation and engagement. You can increase your peers’ motivation and engagement by being a peer leader. This is because they are perceived as more credible and relatable than traditional leaders.
- Improved communication skills and problem-solving abilities. Leaders can help their peers improve their communication and problem-solving skills. This is because they allow peers to work together and learn from each other.
- Support and guidance are provided to team members. In addition to providing support and guidance to their peers, peer leaders can also act as role models. As a result, they can assist them in succeeding academically, navigating social challenges, and making good choices.
- Enhanced sense of community. By enhancing peer leadership, a sense of community can be fostered. As a result, peers can connect with each other and work towards common goals.
- The development of leadership skills. The development of leadership skills can be achieved through peer leadership. After all, a peer leader learns how to motivate, inspire, and solve problems. Additionally, they learn how to build relationships and work effectively with others.
- Learn from peer leaders. By sharing their knowledge and experience, peer leaders can help their peers. In addition to learning new things, it can also help them grow as individuals.
Benefits for peer leaders:
- Enhance your leadership abilities. Developing peer leadership skills includes setting goals, planning and executing projects, communicating effectively, and resolving conflicts. In both your personal and professional lives, these skills can be invaluable.
- Gain confidence. Developing confidence in one’s abilities can be facilitated by peer leadership. How? Learning how to contribute and make a difference.
- Build relationships. In peer leadership, peers get to know each other personally and develop trust and respect. It can also help them develop relationships with their community and make new friends.
- Learn about themselves. Self-discovery can be part of peer leadership. The strengths and weaknesses of a leader are identified, and the values and goals of the leader are understood.
In general, peer leadership has the potential to benefit both leaders and their constituents. Leadership skills can be developed, relationships are built, and the world can be changed through it.
Examples of Peer Leadership
It is not difficult to find examples of peer leadership in action. Listed below are a few examples you probably see every day:
- A peer leader can mentor younger students, tutor struggling students, and lead extracurricular activities in the classroom.
- Using peer leadership in the workplace can help you train new employees, resolve conflicts, and improve communication.
- In community organizations, peer leaders can plan events, raise awareness, and advocate on behalf of the community.
How to Become a Peer Leader
To prepare for becoming a peer leader, you can do the following:
Isn’t it cool to work with someone who can turn any negative situation around? At the same time, if you don’t care, striving for positivity in this way can come off as disingenuous. How come? The key to positivity is believing in what you say and do.
You can also promote positivity by:
- Give them a sense of security. A safe environment makes people think and act differently. Making mistakes, sharing out-of-the-box ideas, and being themselves is okay. If you accept their contributions enthusiastically, they’ll rise to the occasion.
- Provide them with a purpose. Remember to remind your staff of their importance to your work and how their contributions help your company succeed. The performance of a team will be much better if it contributes to the “why” rather than the “what”.
- It is important to praise progress. What person doesn’t love being cheered on at every step? Don’t be afraid to praise any progress even when things don’t go as planned.
Lead without authority.
To lead effectively within a peer group, whether in a horizontal or vertical setting, you must understand that you cannot lead through authority. True leadership is not about authority, title, or role; it is about motivating others into following you.
You have to earn leadership. Peer leadership starts with understanding this reality.
Make horizontal accountability a priority.
Basically, horizontal accountability means holding each other accountable, regardless of your title. High-performing teams need this ingredient to ensure everyone’s pulling their weight and working together.
The following tips will help you foster a culture of horizontal accountability:
- Set clear expectations and goals. Everyone must know what’s expected of them and the team’s goals. By doing this, you’ll make sure everyone’s on the same page.
- Provide regular feedback. Accountability requires feedback. Teams can identify where they need to improve and stay on track with it. Make your feedback specific, timely, and actionable.
- Encourage open communication. It’s essential for horizontal accountability to have an open communication culture. Every member of the team should feel comfortable challenging the status quo and speaking up.
- Celebrate successes and learn from failures. Whenever people achieve their goals, it’s important to celebrate them. Doing this will motivate them to keep working hard and hold each other accountable. It’s also important to learn from your mistakes. Post-mortems can be done to identify the root cause of failures and to prevent them in the future.
- Address problems promptly. Whenever there are problems on the team, they need to be addressed ASAP. It’ll help prevent small problems from getting worse.
- Be a role model. A leader sets the tone for the team. As such, you need to set an example for horizontal accountability if you want to foster it. It means taking responsibility for your own actions and holding other people accountable.
Using these tips, you can build a culture of horizontal accountability in your team. As a result, you’ll have a high-performing team focused on getting things done.
Connect with your peers.
If you haven’t done so, start building peer relationships. You’ll understand their challenges and needs.
Building relationships with your peers can be done in a few different ways:
- Start by getting to know your coworkers on a personal level. Maybe you can take them out for lunch, coffee, or drinks after work.
- Participate in projects that require you to work with others. You will be able to meet your peers and build relationships this way.
- Be a team player. Don’t hesitate to lend a helping hand to your teammates.
- Celebrate successes together. Celebrating something good with your peers is a great way to show your appreciation. By doing this, you demonstrate your support for them and your appreciation for their contributions.
- When times get tough, be there for one another. Don’t be afraid to offer your support to a peer who is struggling. Whether you listen to their venting, offer advice, or just be there for them, you can help them.
The effort it takes to build relationships with peers is well worth the effort. The key is to be authentic, supportive, and respectful. An enjoyable, productive, and rewarding work environment can be achieved through strong peer relationships.
Make your community a priority.
Explore leadership and service opportunities in your community. In addition to gaining experience, you will also develop your leadership skills.
Some examples include:
- Organize a food drive to help those in need.
- You can start a recycling program in your neighborhood.
- Create a community garden to ensure everyone has access to fresh food.
- Make your community cleaner by organizing a neighborhood cleanup.
- Donate your time to a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
- Make a blood or plasma donation.
- You can walk dogs at a local animal shelter.
- Spend time tutoring students.
In one survey, 86% of respondents said they were more likely to balance work and life concerns under a leader with empathy. The more you care for your coworkers, the more creative and assertive they will be.
Even better? It is not just at work that empathy helps you thrive, but in all aspects of your lives as well.
Make yourself relatable.
We are most likely to relate to others when we share interests and experiences. Using peer leaders’ questions about peers’ lives and backgrounds can effectively discover that common ground. Only by showing interest can one establish relatability and unveil connective areas in which they can share their relevant stories.
In addition to shared motivations, aspirations, and accomplishments, shared values also exhibit relatability. Similar interests can suggest kindred souls, which is excellent for building deep bonds.
Also, people like leaders who identify with them. Almost all leadership relationships are like that. It is generally found that peer leaders who are perceived to be far more competent and ambitious than their peers tend to be less influential. It is possible to degrade peer leaders’ likeability among colleagues with similar skills when they perceive that they are over-competent, aka the Pratfall Effect.
Don’t be unreliable.
Being the person who always shows up will make you stand out. Responding to emails and asking for help at the right time so deadlines aren’t missed are good examples—those sensitive to others’ needs. If you’re constantly seeking ways to better yourself and show up for the group’s benefit, you’ll have a much easier time becoming an effective peer leader.
Continually learn and grow.
Peer leaders must learn from and grow with their peers. To be successful, they need to be open to receiving feedback and coming up with new ideas.
In any organization, peer leadership plays a critical role. A peer leader can enhance a sense of community, improve communication and problem-solving skills, and increase motivation and engagement. It is important to prepare yourself if you intend to become a peer leader.
Become an active community member, develop leadership skills, be confident and approachable, and learn as you go.
What is peer leadership?
Peer leaders provide support and guidance to their peers. Most peer leaders are chosen for their leadership skills, like communication, problem-solving, and motivation.
Peer leadership offers what benefits?
Participating in peer leadership is beneficial to both the individuals involved and the organization or community as a whole. You can gain confidence, develop leadership skills, and improve communication skills through peer leadership. Besides providing opportunities for learning new things, volunteering can also provide opportunities for giving back to your community.
When morale is high, turnover is reduced, and productivity is high, peer leadership can help. It can also help create a more supportive and inclusive work environment.
In what ways does peer leadership pose challenges?
Managing the needs of the organization or community while meeting the personal needs of peer leaders is one of peer leadership’s most significant challenges. There are also challenges that peer leaders may face, such as managing time, conflict, and stress.
How can a peer leader be effective?
To be an effective peer leader, you need to be empathetic, approachable, and supportive. Furthermore, they are good communicators and listeners. Creating relationships and gaining trust with others comes naturally to them. Furthermore, they can motivate and inspire others to achieve their goals.
Image Credit: Antoni Shkraba; Pexels; Thank you!