It’s Time We Figure This Out

My daughter, a freshman in college, recently told me about an opportunity on campus to be part of a special leadership development group for freshmen.  The organization would select a given number from the applicant pool and provide various developmental opportunities for them during their first year of college.  It sounded great but when I asked who would be conducting the interviews, she said a group of upper classmen.  I obviously was somewhat skeptical when I heard that information, but I thought I would wait and see how this process progressed.  I won’t go into a lot of detail, but I asked her what question(s) this group of upper classmen asked them during the group interview.  She said it was just “what leadership positions did you hold in high school”. 

There’s the problem!  There are no leadership positions.  Leadership is influence, not a position.  Leadership is a “verb” not a position.  Followers make one a leader, not a position.  Now, there are positions that provide an opportunity to have a broader scope of influence, but the position is not the key.  A much better question would have been tell me about the impact you had on your high school campus and why you want to pursue growing your leadership skills on this campus!

Hey, I don’t need to blame these young people for not understanding.  We have a world full of “grown-ups” that don’t get it.  Leadership is not about position, power, being the boss, telling others what to do, getting attention, making more money, being in charge, being well known, getting perks, getting our way, self-promotion, and I can go on and on, but I think you get it.

Leadership is about influencing people regardless of position.  Leadership is about focusing on the people in our charge, not being in charge.  Leadership is a selfless task of focusing on other’s needs and well-being over our own.  Manager and supervisors (positions) are responsible for getting work done through others.  That’s what they do, and we need those things done.  Leadership; however, goes beyond managing and supervising and focuses on influence, impact, and developing a culture of engagement. 

Here’s a few characteristics of leaders for you to consider:

Leaders focus on people first and go after their mission/goal with their people.  People are not another obstacle to deal with but rather the center of our purpose. 

Leaders give their teams all the credit when things go well and accept the responsibility when things go poorly.

Leaders anticipate issues and develop plans to address the challenges before others.  Leaders are out front setting the course for others to follow, not waiting for everything to be clear before making a decision (while people in their charge struggle/suffer).

Leaders continually look to make the complex more simple for others to understand and execute.  They look to streamline and simplify everything they can to promote better execution.  They are not caught up with being the smartest one in the room, but want to help others understand and contribute.

Leaders are comfortable with others providing opinions, getting help from others, learning from others, and seeking advice.  They are comfortable because they are not feeding an ego, but rather serving their followers. 

Leaders continually focus on the long term well-being of the followers and the organization.  While they deal with short term tactical issues, they never lose sight of the long term focus.  They don’t allow themselves to be caught up in short term thinking that leads to long term regrets.

Leaders maintain a proper perspective that keeps long term focus in mind and don’t overreact to short term failures.  Leaders understand that mistakes will be made, and they make the most of the coaching opportunities to improve long term results and build stronger teams.  This perspective leads to a “we” focus and not “me”.

I just share these thoughts to give you an opportunity to reflect on your current impact and evaluate how you are progressing as a leader.  So forget the focus on position and refocus on having a meaningful impact with those in your sphere of influence.  Add value to someone every day!

And if you are curious if you are leading effectively, take a look and see if anyone is following….

For a copy of the book “Leadership Basics for Success” see: and search for the title.  I wrote this short book several years ago to be used in supervisor leadership development.

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