There are two types of leaders in your company: the named leaders and the thought leaders.
The named leaders are the usual suspects. They have president, boss, or manager somewhere in their job title. They generally lead the meetings, handle productivity issues, and probably micromanage you from time to time. They have authority, but they might not have influence.
Then, there are the thought leaders. Thought leaders are an especially potent force in the cubicle farm. While named leaders appear to be in charge, thought leaders are the ones who are actually driving an organization forward. When you have a named leader who's also a thought leader, you're really in the sweet spot.
Ok, ok, enough. What is a thought leader? A thought leader is that employee (hopefully you!) who pours themselves completely into their work. They're always looking for opportunities, for ways to improve systems and processes, and they volunteer their very best ideas to the group, always willing to take point and run with it. They're the person that people come to with their ideas. Thought leaders sit in meetings and are able to steer the direction of a working group or the entire company because everyone knows that not only are they going to make constructive suggestions, they're going to follow through with them.
There might be someone on your team who has the appearance of a thought leader, but really isn't. They're constantly throwing ideas out to see what sticks, but are utterly unwilling to do any of the work. They're suggesting edits and changes to everyone else except themselves. They're pompous, arrogant, and trying to appear like a busy-body. Don't be that guy.
Thought leaders have hundreds, even thousands of ideas each week, but they don't just blurt them out. They carefully refine, scrutinize, and test each one, only sharing the very best with the group. In that way, when they speak, people listen.
Thought leaders aren't overly concerned with giving away their best ideas free of charge. They don't use them as bargaining chips for a better cubicle, a promotion, or more vacation time. They give them away because they know that a more efficient and productive team will make everyone's life better. Goals will be hit, deadlines will be met, and named leaders will be happier, thereby making everyone happier. They know that improvements in a workplace start from the ground up.
I want you to become a thought leader in your company this year. No matter what level you find yourself at, be an asset! Be invaluable to your company. Look for better ways to do business. Pursue your best ideas with tenacity and become a standout. Never mail in your performance, just be the absolute best person and employee you can.
At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what title is on your business card or if you have a business card at all. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you gave an honest day's work for an honest paycheck. And that's something to be excited about.