Leadership...It's Not a Position

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Leadership...It's Not a Position

Being appointed or elected to a position the duties of which include providing leadership does not in and of itself make one a leader. Leadership is a series of behaviors and actions, not a right or position. It stems from the earned consent of followers. In other words, even if we’re the boss on the org chart, followers get to decide whether or not we’re worthy of the moniker.

On a recent Sunday morning television program, mega best-selling author and journalist, Tom Friedman put a little finer point on that, reminding us that, “There is formal authority,  and there is moral authority.” Formal authority is position power that is bestowed by law, contract, or position that one has been elected or appointed to. Moral authority on the other hand represents “trustworthiness to make decisions that are right and good” (Merriam Webster). One is bestowed, the other is earned. One might give you the power to tell others what to do, while the other establishes whether or not they are likely to do it of their free will.

So how does one earn the benefit of the doubt, and the distinction as “leader?”

  1. First, you manage yourself. No one is going to follow you for very long or very far if you don’t have your own act together. You summon appropriate doses of optimism and humility, and keep your ego very much in check. The same for your emotions. You must demonstrate the courage to make tough decisions, to face tremendous uncertainty, to say no to inappropriate behavior, and when necessary to tell an old friend that they need to change or leave. You are a master of your time and priorities.
  2. You lead others, by sharing information (the big picture, and the where, why, when stuff), by setting and maintaining high standards (starting with yourself), by being candid with people, and by doing the hard work to be a talent magnet, a good example. You readily share the spotlight, and are willing to dim your lights in order that others may shine.
  3. You manage the system. You make sure that your teammates have the training, tooling, and trust to do their very best work, every day. Where policy or process impede their efforts, you fix them.You see to it that your teammates have a tail wind, earned by achievement as they compete for their own future.

Leadership… It’s a great gig if you can get it and are willing to do the hard work. It sucks if you’re an imposter.

If you would like to take this topic to a different level in a one-on-one coaching session, keynote speech, or seminar, we would love to hear from you.

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