There are leaders and then there are those that lead.
We hear the term “leader” in many places – political leaders, community leaders, church leaders, military leaders, sports leaders, etc. These “leaders” are elected, appointed, or anointed to their position.
In the business world we also see the word “leader” being used more broadly. The title of foreman has been largely replaced with team leader, and not just because it is gender neutral. In business there are team leaders, project leaders, section leaders, unit leaders, and many more.
There are many of those that are called leaders who have little concept of what leadership is all about. Leadership is not a function of title or position. For many of these so-called leaders, there are followers simply because people are forced or expected to follow.
And then there are those that lead. Leadership can be defined as influence. The right to influence is not demanded by those that lead, rather it is granted by followers. This right to influence is earned through a relationship of trust and respect. Trust and respect is granted to those that lead based on their demonstration of the character and competency of true leadership. The character traits of leadership are foundational. The saying is true that “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Followers first must see what is inside those that lead – the virtues, values, and beliefs that drive them – before they care what they know and do. Character traits like honesty, authenticity, humility, positivity, vulnerability, empathy, and integrity are the entry tickets into a relationship of trust and respect. Once character is demonstrated, competencies or skills such as communication, strategic thinking, vision, and the ability to coach and develop people then draw followers further into relationship and guide them into positive action.
“There are leaders and then there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us… we follow tho“se who lead not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.” – Simon Sinek
The followers of “leaders” (those based on position or title only) give little of themselves. Followers of those that lead are committed and ready to give their blood, sweat, and tears to achieve the shared vision. Those who lead also inspire.
Are you a “leader” or “a person who leads”?