I frequently hear from people who want to move up in their organization. Most of them are looking for a leadership position. Many of them are most interested in the “perks” of leadership. More money, more flexibility, more control, over themselves and the people they work with. Some say they want the authority and power that they think come with a leadership position.
Some say they want to “leave a mark” on their organization and be remembered after they are gone. A few, very few, say they want to help people develop and grow.
And that perhaps is why we see fewer and fewer Authentic Leaders in the world today.
Too many people today are interested in a leadership position and too few are interested in actually leading. People assume, and I think this is the biggest fallacy of leadership, they assume that once they are promoted to a leadership position they are a leader.
Nothing could be further from the truth. All that position does is give someone the illusion of leadership. It fools many of them into thinking that they have somehow gotten smarter overnight. It bewilders them into believing that because they hold a position of leadership that other people will see them as someone they want to follow.
You can’t blame them for buying into those myths. It’s likely the people who promoted them have bought into them for years. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. It’s one of the most common reasons that businesses fail.
Here are the myth busting facts. Holding a leadership position does not make you a leader. You do not even need to be in a so called position of leadership to actually lead. Leadership is not a position, it is a disposition. It is a mindset. It is a personal culture that says I care enough to make a difference in the lives of other people, even if that comes with a personal expense to me.
Being promoted to a leadership position puts you at the appropriately named “position” level of leadership. At this level of leadership you likely have few true leadership skills. You very likely have no formal leadership training. Because of this you’re probably going to lead the same way you’ve been led. Which is to say you won’t be doing much leading.
You’ll attempt to force the compliance of the people you’re supposed to be leading. About the only way you know how to do that is to provide a set of consequences if your people don’t do what they are told. If the consequences are severe enough, and the people need the job, they will comply. You’ll fool yourself again into thinking you’re doing a swell job.
But almost every single personnel issue a company has is caused by leaders occupying this level of leadership. People will not follow a position level leader past their stated job description. If you’ve ever heard from one of your people that “you can’t make me do that, it’s not in my job description” then you know for a fact that they see you as a position level leader. Even if they don’t know it’s called that. Even if you didn’t know it was called that.
At this level of leadership continuous attitude issues arise. This level of leadership is the primary driver of disengaged people, those people that lately have been described as “quiet quitters.” Your people will not openly disobey you, they will slow walk everything you ask them to do. Position level leaders have no way of motivating their people and often don’t even know that’s one of their prime responsibilities as a leader.
Everyone starts at the position level of leadership but the longer you stay there the more likely you are to be stuck there forever. At this level you have a lot to learn but if you’re willing to learn it the rewards are significant.
Once you move past this level your personnel issues begin to melt away. The same people who had attitude issues become much better team members. Your people look for ways to solve problems rather then pointing out everything that’s wrong. You’ll wonder what caused them to change but the truth will be they didn’t change, YOU did. You learned to lead people instead of trying to manage them.
Once you’re past the position level of leadership you won’t need the compliance of your people because you’ll have their commitment. They will be committed to you because you have the courage to show you care more for them as people than you care about them as employees.
Being an Authentic Leader means investing a part of yourself in the people you lead. It’s hard work but perhaps the most rewarding work you’ll ever do. Make the effort to move past the position level of leadership and see the difference it makes in your life and the lives of everyone you lead. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.