People follow people. They don’t follow positions and they certainly don’t follow titles. If you believe that your position or title makes you a leader then you’re making one of the most common leadership mistakes you can make.
Your title or position does not give you the right to lead. You can be promoted to a position of leadership but you can’t be promoted to “leader.” You must earn the right to lead and that right can only be given by those who would follow you.
Your title or position may buy you some additional time to earn that right but that’s about all it does. To earn the right to lead you must walk your talk and that is easier said than done. As someone in a leadership position you will be watched.
People will watch to see if what you say matches what you do. If it doesn’t then your leadership is pretty much dead on arrival. You may be given the occasional pass for a minor lapse here and there but overall if you hope to truly lead then your words and actions must match.
When your words and actions match your potential followers will see you as an honest person who is credible. When people see you as credible they will allow you the opportunity to lead them. It’s only when people actually follow you that you are truly a leader.
That’s why it is a good idea to turn around once in a while to see if anyone is behind you. If no one is there then you may be going for a walk but you aren’t really leading anyone.
Clearly there is more to leading than just walking your talk but matching your words and actions is a critical first step in earning the right to lead. Skip it and you miss the opportunity to make your leadership matter.
If you’re in a leadership position and no one is following don’t think for a minute that your position has failed you. In order to grow into a true leader you must understand that you have failed the position and the people who needed you to lead.
Learn from that and you’ll be learning to lead.