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When you hear or see the word leader, do you think of yourself? Your initial reply to this question may be, “I’m not in a position of authority or supervision. How can I consider myself to be a leader?” Such a response is not uncommon. For some years, we have been taught to believe that leaders are people who have a title or position within an organization that speaks to any and all that they are a leader, such labels as manager, supervisor, vice president, and the like. Those without these titles are the “employees” or other organizational “representatives” whose responsibility, we are told, is to listen to the leaders (those with the position or title) and “do what they are told to do.”
The truth is that anyone can assume leadership roles and responsibilities regardless of their title or position in an organization, and irrespective of the type of organization in which they work or with which they are associated. Leadership is not just about power or position, it’s about relationships. As our friend Ken Blanchard has said, “Leadership isn’t something we do to people but with people.” More specifically, leadership occurs when we engage others in an “influence relationship” that moves those individuals or groups toward the achievement of a particular goal or objective. In that context, leaders are the people who work to establish influence relationships because they know that’s the best way to lead.
In our book, The LEADERS Model: Essential Practices for Today’s Leaders, the L stands for leadership. It may seem redundant to include the word leadership in a model spelled out by the acronym LEADERS, but when you stop to think about it, it makes perfect sense. Leadership starts with accepting the fact that you are a leader and the rest of the acronym that stands for ethics, alignment, decision making, engagement, resilience, and stewardship follow that acceptance. Those other six practices speak to the nature of your influence relationship with others, things that will enhance or undermine your effectiveness. When members of the team accept that they are leaders based on their skills, expertise and experience, regardless of title, then everyone is starting from the same admission: I am a leader.
Consider the effects of everyone accepting the fact that leadership flows through influence relationship. Leadership becomes the responsibility of everyone in the group or organization. It is not always up to the leader in the traditional sense to make sure that a particular task or goal is achieved. Everyone in the group or organization is responsible to establish positive, influential relationships with other individuals or groups so the organization’s mission can be fulfilled in a meaningful way. This type of leadership is empowering and transformational for all who are involved.
Accept the fact that you are a leader, regardless of where you stand on the traditional org chart. Then seek to cooperate with and establish influential leadership relationships with others without regard for hierarchy or protocol. When you do, “leadership” will happen, not because it’s mandated but because everyone is pulling in the same direction. When that happens, there’s no telling what good things will emerge as everyone answers the questions, “Am I a leader?” with a resounding, “Yes!”
For more than 30 years, Jim Dittmar has served in the field of leadership development as a practitioner, teacher, consultant, researcher, and author. He is the founder, president, and CEO of 3Rivers Leadership Institute. Prior to this, Jim was the founder and director of the Geneva College M.S. in Organizational Leadership Program. He is the co-author of the recently released book, The LEADERS Model: Essential Practices for Today’s Leaders.
John W. Stanko is the founder of Urban Press, a publishing service designed to tell stories of the city, from the city and to the city. John is the author of 50 books, including The LEADERS Model: Essential Practices for Today’s Leaders, which he co-authored with Jim Dittmar.