Stop Calling Yourself a Leader
I can almost hear it now…another all staff meeting brought to you by your office’s Senior Leadership Team, or maybe they call it the Leadership Committee, or maybe the Executive Leadership Office. Whatever its called, in most cases it is probably not leadership.
So stop calling yourselves that.
The word leader is thrown around in organizations so much — and with such little regard for accuracy — that the word has nearly lost its meaning. And frankly, it makes me upset.
Because now more than ever, this world is in desperate need of real leaders. And simply calling yourself one doesn’t make you one.
If you haven’t had the chance, read Coach Anyone About Anything: How to Empower Leaders and High Performance Teams” by Germain Porshe and Jed Niederer.
In it, they make the compelling case for what a leader is.
A leader is a person who [envisions] a future and enrols people into making that future happen.
Notice a few key pieces about this definition.
First, to be a leader requires having a vision or a compelling notion of what you would like the future to be.
Second, it requires that you bring along people with you to help execute that vision.
Nowhere in that description does it say that leaders necessarily have authority. Indeed, in some cases a leader may be in a position that affords him or her certain privileges of power, but to be a leader does not require it. Indeed, some of the best leaders out there are those that don’t have formal authority, but because of their relational influence on people, have changed the world.
You see, this is where most people get it wrong. Most people equate having a position of authority as synonymous with being a leader. In fact, what they really are is managers.
Porsche and Nieder go on to describe what a manager is:
A manager a person who coordinates people and materials to accomplish specific milestones and objectives, which will make the declared future happen.
According to this stance, managers are executors of someone else’s (the leader’s) vision. This does not diminish the importance of their roles — indeed, managers are needed in order to a leader’s vision to become reality. The are important task masters, without whom the ideal future state would not be possible.
Unfortunately the Senior Management Team or Management Committee or Executive Management Office doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as leadership does.
But let’s be brutally honest: you’re a manager. And we need you. But you most certainly aren’t our leaders.