Where does it say that you have to actually be in a leadership position to actually lead people? It doesn’t, because you don’t. Anybody can be a leader, from the CEO of the organization, to the janitor, to a woman riding on a bus. The distinction is in the definition of leadership.
My definition is fairly simple, and is one used often by Colin Powell: Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible. Well said. It means a leader influences a group of people to accomplish something – and great leaders usually accomplish something others thought impossible.
But be honest, leadership can work the other way to. Leadership can come from somebody trying to rally people around not accomplishing something. You know this type of leader. They are always working against you, bringing others down with speeches or other tactics. Sometimes, they are successful and the initiative fails or delivers less than desired results. But this person is not a leader, at least by title or designation, so how were they able to accomplish this? They led without being a leader.
My favorite leader that was not a leader was Rosa Parks. By most definitions, she was most certainly not thought of as a traditional leader. She was an average citizen minding her own business on an average day. But on that winter day in 1955, by a simple act of defiance, she rose above all to become a leader. The leader of something so important to her race and our country. This is direct proof that you do not have to be a leader to be a leader. Leadership takes many shapes, sizes, and forms which can be positive or negative to an organization.
But this is a good thing to understand and recognize. Furthermore, all levels of the organization should do so as well. Empower your employees at all levels to lead the charge for the organization. If you can develop leaders within each level, that will enhance the probability of success. There is nothing better than telling your front line team what is needed, getting their buy-in, and then know that you have someone that will champion the cause for you.
There are a number of leadership and business myths that are worth looking at, and I will continue to do so on this blog. Hopefully, they will help dispel those ideas and notions that have embedded themselves into our general business acumen and become impediments to accomplishing great things with your teams.
The key lesson of this myth is to remember that when you look to develop leaders within your organization, look at all levels, and empower individuals to take leadership roles even if they are not in a traditional leadership position. Also, if you find yourself in a position where you are not a leader by definition, reflect on Rosa Parks and the courage she drew upon to become a leader without being a leader.