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When I say “Leadership”…what definition springs to your mind?

I’ve heard it defined in so many ways I’ve lost count. The most concerning for me is when people say they are not a leader because they don’t manage staff. I’m curious about why they have chosen to define leadership this way. How have the terms management and leadership gotten so entwined? Are they saying that without the explicit permission of being appointed as a ‘manager’ they cannot lead?

Let’s explore leadership for a minute…

Oxford Defines it as – the action of leading a group of people or an organization, ….or the ability to do this.

Forbes described it as – a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.

This article in Business News Daily gives you “10 Definitions of Leadership” from various experts.

No where did I find a definition that says…leadership is managing staff or a position on an organisational chart. The definitions talk about actions, abilities and a process for leading people.

Although, when you engage in a traditional ‘leadership’ program they do spend 90% of the time telling you how to get your team to perform their jobs. So I guess it’s no wonder that people think leadership is management. We need to think about…and teach…leadership differently.

In Robin Sharma’s book “The Leader Without a Title” his character Tommy Flinn describes leadership in a way that I love. I’ve always been a sincere advocate and champion of the “leader at all levels” philosophy and Tommy says it so well. “If you can breathe, then you are a leader.”

“But I don’t have anyone reporting to me, how can I be a leader? I can’t just take over from my boss that’s not right.” You say, aghast at the thought that if you breathe the expectations at work will heighten.

Correct, you cannot and should not ‘take over’ from your boss. They have a very specific job to do. But why does your role in the business have to exclude leadership?

You are a leader already. All you need to do is choose to be and hone the skills and behaviours of leadership.

Let’s suppose for a minute that leadership was never associated with the position of manager.

What if it was defined as something like this…

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams

Would that mean that expectations of all people would be higher? Yes and Yay! Higher expectations is a good thing. Higher expectations give us higher goals and therefore better results. There is too much apathy in the world already. Through apathy we get things like reality television and Tony Abbott. Wouldn’t it be appropriate if we all individually took responsibility for leading, assisting others to be successful and achieving great things ourselves? Rather than defer the responsibility elsewhere.

So consider your actions from yesterday. Did you inspire anyone to dream more, learn more, do more or become more? If so then you are a leader.

So the question again, do you have to be a manager of people or have permission to be a leader?

Hell no! Take the lead when needed, inspire when needed, and manage when needed. Don’t wait for permission to be amazing.

A manager of mine once said to me “Sometimes its better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.” Its a great philosophy to live by if you want to achieve great things.

Personally I define leadership simply. Leadership is doing the best you can, being the best you can and creating value – regardless of position, authority, title or permission.

So lead today, right now, choose to lead. Don’t wait for permission.

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