Leadership has been the tip of everyone’s tongue of the last decade. From convention keynoters, to coaches, to political pundits, everyone insists they want a cadre of leaders to carry out their mission.

So for all the talk, techniques, training, and tips on the leadership topic, you’d think managers, executives, and professionals at all levels would have the concept down pat by now.  Not so.  A few are still off track.

Leadership Defined: It’s NOT a Position

True leadership requires personal influence—persuasion afforded by a long track record of solid relationships built by trust.  That reserve of trust may have been cemented by any number of things:

  • Consistency ̶̶  ̶̶ actions that match your words
  • Direct, clear communication without intention to deceive
  • Transparency and openness
  • Competence
  • Explanations about goals and decisions
  • A private life that matches the public life
  • An upbeat, positive attitude about the future
  • Concern and compassion for others

When others see these attitudes in a leader, the personal influence compels them to listen with an open mind—and often to accept the leader’s opinions and ideas as their own.

When the personal influence is absent, a positional title often demands little more than a “hearing”—often met with skepticism.

Leadership Defined: It’s NOT Power

Positional power comes with a title—to hire, fire, dismiss from a sports team, fine with a traffic ticket. But members in all levels of our society have such positional power. The cashier has “power” to stop buyers before they walk out of store without paying for an item. The librarian has “power” to charge for an overdue book. The security guard in the lobby has power to turn visitors away if they don’t have a proper ID to enter the building.

But people filling these positions would not necessarily be showing leadership to stop the thief, fine the book borrower, or turn away the building visitor. They’re just carrying out a functional role.

Leadership demands a higher order of power—one not simply granted by the position or title an individual holds.

Leadership must be earned. Followers grant it. To know if you are a leader, look behind you to see if people are following.

Leadership Defined: It’s NOT Pride

Whenever I attend a conference, I’m not surprised to see the most successful participants in the group taking the most notes. They never stop growing, learning, and tweaking to make themselves and their businesses better. The less successful often relax and lean back as if they know it all already.

The greatest leaders demonstrate true humility. Not a false humility, but a genuine humility.  Because of their wisdom, they know the vast potential for human growth, and the standards for themselves and their own achievements remain extremely high.

The humble leader listens—to new ideas, to feedback, to those lower “on the food chain” with a different perspective. The humble leader understands that their greatest accomplishment often comes as a result of intake, not outgo.

The strongest leaders communicate much about position, power, and pride—without ever saying a word.

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