Lead from where you are
Fancy titles and expensive business cards don’t make you a leader and you don’t have to be anyone’s boss to be their leader. Everyone has the capacity for leadership and anyone can be a leader regardless of their role.
Constant use has muddled the meaning of the word leadership. True leaders are overlooked because they often are not the ones in charge even when they should be. Leaders are not glory hounds.
Leadership is similar to respect. Leadership isn’t bestowed on a person when they get a title, a nice parking spot, and a fancy nameplate on the door. Just because someone is the CEO, the superintendent, the chairman, the Grand Poobah, it doesn’t mean they know how to lead.
What is a leader?
Good managers are not necessarily leaders, though leaders are usually good managers. Author Seth Godin says managers want the same thing today as they got yesterday, only faster and cheaper. More widgets. Higher yield. Increasing the bottom line.
Some managers are little more than taskmasters who are good at cracking the whip and keeping the worker bees in line. Leaders provide support and resources to help people reach their goals. Where managers might ask, “What else can you do for me?” leaders ask, “What else can I do for you?”
Managers dole out task lists, fret over process and details, and micromanage every step of a job. Leaders understand everyone is different and appreciate the diverse talents each individual brings to a project. A leader asks you to set a goal and steps out of the way, then provides the support and resources you need to reach the goal in your own way.
To summarize, managers are rigid where leaders are flexible. Managers are by the book. Leaders understand it’s OK to bend the rules sometimes and even to break them if necessary.
Leaders have a different way of assessing their environment, their project, the task at hand. A leader seeks ways to help everyone on the team achieve at higher levels. Leaders look for new ways to reach beyond their goals.
Leaders don’t ask for permission, they ask for forgiveness. That doesn’t mean they are looking for creative ways to get into trouble, but that they constantly strive to overcome the status quo and find greatness in others as well as themselves.
If you dread it when The Boss visits, then you probably work for a bad manager (or worse); however, if your boss’s visits provoke honest discussion helping you find new ways of thinking–you feel better after they leave–then she is probably a leader.
Leaders don’t care about titles
It’s worth ending where we began. Fancy titles and expensive business cards don’t make you a leader and you don’t have to be anyone’s boss to be their leader. Everyone has the capacity for leadership and anyone can be a leader regardless of their role.