Be a Leader Regardless of Title:
Service is a Choice
It gives me pause when someone generalizes others as “not leadership types.” Their intent is never to be mean-spirited, more of a casual toss of opinion. There are roles not necessarily deemed as leadership ones in every organization, and that’s fair enough. But by no means should we discount anyone from being potential leaders or leaders amongst their inner circles.
Every person can lead. Our starting point being self-leadership: taking responsibility for our decisions, standing by our principles and beliefs, holding strong to our values such as honesty and integrity, and challenging ourselves to be our best. If our behavior is consistent, then it makes no difference if we are at home or at work. These actions and decisions are not affected by title, rank, or status as leadership comes from within.
I bet you can easily think of a leader who possesses the corresponding title, yet you are not at all inspired by them. People follow them because of the authority that accompanies the title not because of the person.
Now, think of a person you have unshakeable faith in, for whom you would go into battle with without hesitation. Their title or rank has nothing to do with your decision, does it? What matters is that you trust them. You trust their abilities and their character. You know they have your back and for that reason, you absolutely have theirs. This is why we find powerful leaders everywhere…working on factory floors, in hotels as bellhops, or as high school dropouts. Their character is what makes them so, it has nothing to do with a title.
You can be that person. You can be a great leader with or without the accompanying title or status. Who you are is determined by how you act. If you stay consistent in your behavior, people see that. It comforts them knowing you, as simple as this sounds, do what you say you are going to do. They gravitate towards you because they trust you, the proof is always in the pudding.
I love how Simon Sinek speaks of leadership: “Leadership does not mean you are in charge, it means you are responsible for the people in your charge.” Another favorite: “Look to the person on your left and on your right, and ask yourself: how can I help them succeed?” Leaders understand when they help others succeed, they themselves succeed, and it brings about further success for the company. Often, their actions do not even stem from a desire for success, but from a concern for their mates. I have your back, you have mine, now let’s do this.
The funny thing about taking care? It’s not that hard to do, but it does take time and effort. Since those two resources are in limited supply, we choose carefully how we use them. Sometimes, we get a bit stingy. Does it really take that much time and effort to keep the break room tidied? To stock the employee bathrooms? To hold the door open for the person running in behind you? Of course not. These are simple ways to take care of one another. While it requires just a moment or two, your time and effort are greatly appreciated. The result of these acts of kindness when given over time, is trust. And once trust is established, well, now your team is going to be able to perform at their highest potential (check out Google’s Project Aristotle on Building the Perfect Team).
John Wooden led UCLA’s Division I men’s basketball team to 10 championships in 12 years, including 7 in a row (no other team has won more than 4 in a row for men’s or women’s Division I basketball). He is one of the most revered coaches in all of sports, not only for these victories, but for his impact on his players through his leadership.
Part of his everyday routine? To go to the supply closet, grab a broom, and sweep the gym floor.
If we expect the simple tasks to be done by those around us we often set ourselves up for disappointment. However, when we lead by example, from small acts of kindness to sticking by our word, it doesn’t matter where you are on the ladder, people will look to you for leadership.