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 accept traditional definitions of leadership that include telling people what to do and standing in front of people talking.
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:
- Model the way.
- Inspire a shared vision.
- Challenge the process/status quo.
- Enable others to act.
- Encourage the heart.
- Don’t challenge the status quo on your first day.
- 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:
- Exhibit the practices of great leaders. If you aren’t leading without a title, a title won’t help.
- Help others reach their goals.
- 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?
One of the first things I learned from a leader was the message ‘Build me bridges not barriers’. So I learned early on that if there was something I saw as a ‘problem’, to raise it only after I had thought out several possible solutions and the pros and cons of each.
I also have a 4 ‘S’s’ approach to becoming a leader: Show up, Step up, Stretch out and Share.
Great comment. I love a well turned phrase and “build me bridges not barriers” has tons of potential. Thanks for that and your 4 S approach.
Leaders seek solutions.
and S(c)elebrate? 😉
I like your way of bringing new dimension to leadership and the changing trend of making a big impact of leading the team with ‘influence’. In today’s context and futuristic point of view, this is the right way to have followers working towards a common vision.
A true leader always sets an example by remaining exemplary and giving enough conviction for others to follow his actions and then guide them for advanced things to taste the fruits of success.
Dear Dr. Asher,
I appreciate your compliment. It means a lot.
“Set an example by remaining exemplary” … Nicely said.
I think it takes courage for a leader who doesn’t have a title to lead with conviction. Successful leaders balance conviction with humility. That’s not always easy but worth the challenge.
Dr. Asher is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. You can read his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/dr-asher
Great blog Dan–I have been in positions over the years where I was the leader and in positions where I supported the leadership.
Supporting leaders is vital to any company’s success …… In most cases the leader, owner, CEO carries the responsibility to make sure the company and its people succeed.
It makes one stronger as a supporter when you have had both roles. Leaders need to be surrounded with a great support team!
Thanks for your comment.
Your comment made me realize that supporting the leader is one important path to leadership.
So true that you don’t have to be “in charge” or even trying to directly influence behavior. I am reminded of something I read about the Characteristics of a leader The Characteristics of a Leader http://t.co/ngyRPdj that demonstrate it’s more about who you are.
Thanks for adding to the conversation.
I love the idea that leadership is about who we are. Remember Frances Hesselbein says, “Leadership is a matter of how to be not how to do.”
I read “Creating Magic” by Lee Cockrell and his wife said to him “Be careful what you say and do because “they” are watching you and judging you.” I am discovering that in my role at work and as a dad (although a little late in that arena with my oldest being 13) that this statement has never been more true.
Thanks Dan, ‘spot on’ thoughts today… and to riff a bit…
(Learn &) “Challenge the process/status quo” (to improve). The improve probably goes without saying.
“Encourage” (from & to) “the heart”
“Don’t create a vision – adopt” (adapt to and align with) “the one that currently exists” (If you can’t do those, might not be the right fit.)
Know that you are leading (influencing positively or negatively) in every moment, in every interaction, with every person…even those who are not physically present. (The rumor mill and mythos are faster than email!)
Your rhythms expand the music.
Thanks for emphasizing … every moment in every interaction.
Here’s something practical leaders w/o titles can do… notice the hard work of others and show respect for it. That’s positive influence.
Thanks for all you do. I always look for you in the comment stream.
Doc is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at: http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/doc
Great job Dan, your stuff is always pretty much on the mark. One of the things I would like to add here is that IMHO most people in leadership positions today do not understand they are in the “Human Being” business and that you have to believe you can never know enough about what makes a “Human” function. This leads to another decision and that is a commitment to life long professional education. Because the day you decide as a leader to stop educating yourself is the day you can mark on the calendar as the day your career started to go backwards.
I decided some time ago to keep a picture of the covers of the six books every leader, regardless of level or company size, should read and take to heart…by the way I have limited the recommended books list to exactly six so in order to add one I have to take one off. Makes the quality control part real for me.
Thank you Larry. I think this is your first comment. I appreciate it.
I’m glad you focus us on “human being” side of business. It’s all about the people.
I’ll add that we should learn about people AND treat people like human beings and not cogs in a machine.
Best to you,
Larry, I like you 6 book rotation…now if I can just get through the other 15+ to read! (based on what I have learned here at LF)
Doc, I have the same problem, one on my desk, one in the car, one in my ear, lots more on my laptop I drag around. I came to the realization some time ago that appetite for acquiring far exceeds my available time to read. However the math says that if I just read 5 pages a day I can gobble up 9 200 page books a year; that is probably more than the vast majority of folks read wouldn’t you think? Here are my six btw:
The invisible Employee, Adrian Gostick
The Leader Who Had No Title, Robin Sharma
A Sense of Urgency, John Kotter
Tribes, Seth godin
The One Thing You Need To Know, Marcus Buckingham
12 Steps To Power Presence, John Baldoni
You mean my brain is bigger than my eyes!?
Thanks for your list Larry!
Here’s my current six:
Toyota Kata-Mike Rother
Coaching for Engagement -Bob Hancox
Anything You Want-Derek Sivers
The Goal -Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox
As One-Mehrdad Baghai, James Quigley
The Other 90% -Robert K Cooper
I just found your blog today… and I am so overwhelmed! So many good posts. I have my own fledgling blog at leadingquotes.org, but this is amazing… I will definitely use some of this content as inspiration to write my own. I will probably spend a lot of time here I think…
And to respond to your question, I completely agree with the point, “You always influence”. Leaders are always leading, all the time, so if you want to become a leader, you just need to start. In every area of life, you lead; that’s what leaders do.
Thanks for a very encouraging comment. I wish you success in your blogging activities.
An excellent post.
A maxim I have stood by for many years is 3C’s:
Courage, Challenge, Change.
I’ll look out for more of your posts, and like Will Lutterman, intend to start blogging myself some time soon.
Dan, great stuff today.
One rule I see in action often (frequently in its violation unfortunately) – you can’t lead from the rear. It you are not prepared, when push comes to shove, to roll up your sleeves and get into the nitty gritty with your team – you are not leading. The leader is usually the hardest working team member, either because they earned that description or because the rest of the team will reduce their efforts to match those of the leader.
Ya know I read “As One” I thought it had one of the best descriptions of “Community Organizer & Volunteers” I’ve ever seen. I am a big fan of Rotary International so what to do with volunteer organizations is near and dear to my heart. If anyone is interested I have a PowerPoint of that section of “As One”.
Dan, can I do that here?
I concur on your assessment of “As One”
Regarding your powerpoint, feel free to leave a link so everyone can enjoy.
Each and every day we all have the choice to decide how we’re going to show up that day, and if we’re going to lead. Anyone can be a leader…and they can be a leader today. It’s simply a choice. 🙂
Christine, IMHO I don’t think we get to decide; we might or better decide what sort of leader you want to be (there are only two types: “pull up or push down”) but the leadership part is decided by those who we want to follow. As the saying goes “you can get anyone to follow you down the barrel of a gun once…twice, that is a totally different arrangement.
It’s funny…these words, “Leadership”, “Leader”, “Lead”…they can be used and understood in so many different ways, with different perspectives and concepts. To clarify what I believe in saying that we get to decide everyday that we will (or won’t) lead, I’ll offer up a little perspective, focusing on the most basic level of leadership.
In a nutshell, leaders help. They see where they can make a difference and offer assistance. It might be as simple as answering a person’s question. It might be as simple as showing someone the way to perform a task. It might be placing a mirror of truth in front of someone who comes to you looking for resolution, and not seeing the answer being with themselves. At first they may not want to hear it, but because you’re a stand for them and their progress, you’ll put this new perspective in front of them.
If you want to BE a leader, than as you stated, you must DO the things that leaders do, and not wait around for a title, or recognition, or anything else to be placed upon you. Do it – and then you’ll be it.
Which is why I say it’s a choice. You get to decide how you’re going to show up in the face of opportunity to lead others in your life today. 🙂
Excellent description…works for me !
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