You Can Lead Your Way into Leadership

Much of my leadership career I had a leadership title but did little leading. I didn’t understand leadership.

Stop aspiring to become a leader its a waste of time. Leaders don’t aspire to leadership – they lead wherever they are.

Always see yourself as a leader even when you’re following. All leaders follow.

Leaders don’t wait for titles; leaders don’t need titles. Lead today.

Don’t wait for a “leadership” relationship or position to gradually develop; create it by humbly leading, now.

Don’t:

Don’t accept traditional definitions of leadership that include telling people what to do and standing in front of people talking.

Do:

Embrace the definition that leadership is influence. You always influence – believe it and own it.

Lead your way into a title:

Do what all leaders always do, regardless of their official position. Kouzes and Posner summarize the five practices of exemplary leadership in The Leadership Challenge.

You don’t need a leadership title to adopt the powerful practices of leadership:

  1. Model the way.
  2. Inspire a shared vision.
  3. Challenge the process/status quo.
  4. Enable others to act.
  5. Encourage the heart.

Caution:

  1. Don’t challenge the status quo on your first day.
  2. Don’t create a vision – adopt the one that currently exists – and inspire others to adopt it too.

Immature or inexperienced leaders who challenge the status quo and try to inspire a shared vision seem arrogant, ignorant, or both.  Focus more on behaviors and less on talking.

A leadership track record earns titles and positions.

When you aren’t the official leader:

  1. Exhibit the practices of great leaders. If you aren’t leading without a title, a title won’t help.
  2. Help others reach their goals.
  3. The most powerful statement a leader without a title can make is a question; “How can I help?”

What suggestions can you offer for someone who wants to “become” a leader?