True Leaders Lead Everyone

Most often we tend to think of the term leading as someone “higher up” in an organization leading people at a lower level of the organization. 

 

Too often we would be right.

 

True leadership is multi-directional. True leaders lead down, across, and sometimes up. True leaders even lead themselves at times. Because they know that a title or position doesn’t make them a leader they know that they can lead in every direction.

 

Leadership, at it’s core is influence. If you have the ability to influence others then you have the ability to lead. It doesn’t mean you will be a good leader, it doesn’t mean you will lead with noble intentions, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be successful as a leader. It’s simply means your influence will at least partially shape someone else’s thoughts or actions. 

 

If you’re only leading down it is quite possible that you are counting on your title or position to influence others. Titles and positions may buy you some time to demonstrate your level of influence but sooner or later, most often sooner, you will have to realize that’s it you, your experience, your integrity, your “brand” which will allow you to influence others long-term.

 

If you’re only leading down in your organization, it’s quite possible you’re not really leading at all. If you only have “influence” downwards in your organization then it may not be real influence. It may be fear or intimidation that causes your people to follow your wishes and you should be aware that following your wishes or “orders” and actually following you as a leader are two very different things. 

 

On the other hand, when leading across your organization, that is to lead others at your same level, you likely have very little other than your influence to shape their thoughts or actions. To lead up in your organization, that is to lead those at higher levels than your own, you have nothing but your influence to impact their thoughts and actions. 

 

But true leaders most definitely lead in every direction. They don’t count on titles or positions. They demonstrate solid, consistent leadership characteristics that earn them a high degree of influence. 

 

If you find yourself consistently impacting the behavior of those below you in your organization but never above you then that may be an indication that your leadership is limited to one direction. 

 

To lead in every direction, to lead everyone, forget about levels. Forget about titles and ignore positions. Do what is right, say what you mean, exert honest and professional influence with integrity to everyone around you. Some of those may be lower than you in the organization, some may be above you. 


None of that really matters because you’ll be making a difference in the right direction, no matter which direction it is. 


How Easy Are You to Lead?

I speak and write often about the concept of 360 Leadership. The idea of 360 Leadership is simple; you can lead today, right from where you’re at in your organization. It doesn’t require a raise or a promotion or a fancy title, all it requires is a decision that says I will lead today.

360 Leadership means that you lead in all directions – you of course lead those below you on an organizational chart, you lead your peers across from you on an organizational AND you lead above your position on the organizational chart.

It’s the last one, “leading up” in an organization that is tough for many people to grasp. Many people believe it is wrong or even impossible to lead the person above them on an org chart. After all, that person above you is most often your boss and you can’t boss the boss.

Leadership however isn’t about bossing, it is about influencing. You most certainly can influence your boss IF…

I could write for hours on that “IF.” To keep this post from going on forever here’s what it amounts to: to have the opportunity to lead up in your organization two things must happen. You must be a great follower and you must lead yourself very well.

If you want to know how you measure up in those two areas then consider this question: If your company was struggling and needed to let people go would they be looking for ways to keep you or looking for reasons to keep you? If you have the courage to answer truthfully then you’ll know exactly how you’re doing.

There is a world of difference between the two. That difference is almost completely within your control.

When you decide that you want your organization to consider you a “must keep” you’ll see that being a great follower and leading yourself well go hand in hand. You’ll also see why being a 360 leader is the surest way to job security.

360 leaders largely ignore their job descriptions, they do everything listed on it but they also do so much more. They will work alongside their peers to help them succeed. They will “lead up” by helping their leader accomplish more. They will do whatever is asked of them, no matter who asked it. They will do it all with a positive attitude and they will do it because it is the right thing to do.

When you’re a great follower and lead yourself exceptionally well you become easy for leaders above you to lead. When you’re easy to lead your influence grows and it grows in every direction within your organization.

Choose to lead today and your chances for success in your organization and life go way way up!