“Leadership is not a position, it’s a behavior!” This is a quote I saw on Twitter by Rich Diviney. It’s a good reminder for those of us in leadership or those who want to be.
Too often, when I ask people why they want to be in leadership, they talk about how their influence is limited without the title. My pushback is always that it shouldn’t be limited. You don’t rely on your title for leadership. I never have to go around saying, “I’m the CEO. That’s why we’re making this decision.” If I have to do that, I’m not a good CEO, and I’m not doing it right.
When you’re in a leadership position, it’s not about throwing your title around and telling people what to do. It’s about running to the problems and helping people. Ask people how you can help. Leadership is influence and the best way to influence someone is to help them. What’s the best way to figure out where they help? Not by inserting yourself and telling them where they need help. People don’t like that.
The best way to figure out how to help someone is by asking questions. Ask, lean in, help identify where they need help, agree on it, then give them the help they need. Or remove the obstacle, provide resources or help them communicate. Whatever it might be! If you do this enough, people will follow you no matter what your title.
I’ll never forget the point in my career when I approached Service Express’ founder and told him I thought he should name me president. I told him I wanted to play that role so we could go forward and scale the company. He responded, “If you want to be president, go out there and act like you’re president.”
I left the founder’s office with an opportunity. I didn’t have the title or compensation increase. He didn’t tell everybody to listen to me because I wanted to be president. He just told me to act like I was president, so I did that. I connected with everybody, asked questions, solved problems, removed obstacles, communicated and provided resources.
I did this for about 90 days, and when I came back to the founder, he said he thought it was going well. That’s how I earned his trust. I didn’t go out there as “the boss,” telling everyone what to do. I went out there to solve problems and help people.
You don’t need the title to be a leader! Leadership is influence. And you influence people by solving problems and helping them.