For the majority of my professional life, I have associated “leadership” with a role within an organization. I assumed that if someone was in a position of authority, they were a “leader.” Yet, as I continue to study the topic of leadership, I learned that I was wrong in my assumption.
What Makes a Leader?
Do you ever see job titles out there like “Marketing Leader” or “Management Leader” or “Organizational Leader”? I have seen these words within job descriptions, but never in the title itself. That is because people are expected to be leaders within role, but the title itself is not the defining indicator. So, what actually make a person a leader? Is it having supervisory authority over others? I am bold enough to assume several of my readers have lived through the opposite. Others may have the experience of someone trying to lead a project, but relying on their title to accomplish the tasks. Albeit this may get the task done, without genuine followers, this person is only a project manager. So, what makes someone an actual leader?
Leadership Comes from Communication.
When asking people to explain leadership, the quality and quantity of one’s communication is often high on the list. Keeping people informed and bringing them along in decisions are critically important in leadership. However, so often we see that decisions are made and then communicated after the fast. Granted, we may not be able to make every person happy with our decisions, but at least making an effort to gather feedback goes a long way. Notifying those you manage that “change is coming,” even if you don’t have all the details worked out, shows a sign of leadership maturity. More importantly, I believe that when you are in a formal position of authority, you have a duty to communicate well because people are relying on you for guidance. Not to say you have to release confidential information, but recognizing that people desire knowing what is going on and how it affects them in particular.
Leaders have Followers. Managers have Employees.
One of my favorite realizations about leadership is that anyone can embrace this characteristic. You can be a leader in your home, in your community, your job, anywhere you interact with people regardless of your formal role. If you see someone on at your office struggling to complete a task, talking to them and offering to help is a sign of leadership. Organizing a search party for your elderly neighbor’s lost pet is definitely leadership. Whether following in immediate action or future behavior, doing something that makes others follow you because they want to versus because they have to… this is the core of true leadership.
How would you measure up your communication skills if you were the recipient of the message? Take a moment to reflect and assess your leadership through the lens of how you communicate with others.