How do you recognize who’s a leader? Is it the person telling everyone what to do?
Not necessarily. If he is being ignored, he is only talking to himself.
Is it the person giving directions? Telling people where to go?
An usher in the theater, who tells you which entrance to use, is not a leader. He is not influencing your course of action. He is just giving you information.
A police officer directing traffic is not a leader. You might go where you’re told, but he has not influenced your point of view.
A police officer, an usher, a dictator, a jailor . . . these are not leaders.
How do you recognize a leader?
It’s not by their location. A leader can be out in front, in the middle or following behind.
You recognize a leader by the response of their followers.
A leader is someone who influences others to follow a course of action when they have a choice.
A leader is the person who says to others, “follow me!” And they do.
A leader is the person who suggests, “I think this is the way to go.” And people go there.
A leader is the person who takes action. And others join in.
A leader is the person on the ball court who signals to throw the ball to them, and they do.
A leader is the person who does something new and others begin to do it also.
A leader has genuine followers, people who follow of their own volition.
If a leader shouts in the woods and no one hears them, are they a leader? No.
If you think you’re a leader and no one is following, you’re simply taking a walk. (Afghan Proverb)
What if you have a few followers? Are you a leader?
You leadership impact is measured by the percentage of followers within your sphere of influence.
If you are leader of a ten-person team and only two of them follow you, you are not leading. To be a team leader, your sphere of influence must include your entire team.
To lead an organization, your sphere of influence must encompass a “critical mass” – a large enough percentage of the organization to tilt the balance.
Leadership impact depends on your ability to influence people, not your ability to command, coerce or manipulate.
Your leadership is measured, not by what people do when you’re there, but by what they do when you’re not present – when no one is watching and they have the freedom to make personal choices.
Who do people follow when they have a choice?
People follow leaders they trust.
Leaders who articulate a vision they believe in.
Leaders who seem to be competent and know what they are doing.
Leaders whose character they respect.
A person could have the title of president and not be a leader. But if you look closely, you can recognize who the real leaders are.
Crisp and on-point! On my team we all know our boss is not the real leader.
We tend to confuse titles and roles with the act of leadership, which can come from anywhere.
Great post Jesse. This just nails it for me, “A leader is a someone who influences others to follow a course of action when they have a choice.”
True test of your leadership in a large organisation is when you ask people to support you in action who don’t directly report to you or your boss.
Great example. You know you’re a leader when people who don’t report to you follow your lead. Thanks Thabo.
Great post as usual! Love this: “A leader can be out in front, in the middle, or following behind.” So very true!!! I look forward to Considering this post as well as the earlier one linked to the quote above.
Thanks John. John Naisbitt said “leadership is about finding a parade and getting in front of it.” I understand what he means about going where the energy is. But I think leadership is a dance, not a parade.
“A leader is the person who suggests, ‘I think this is the way to go.’ And people go there.” This is what hits the bell for me. These people, in my experience, have currency and credibility with their colleagues because they have proven they know what they’re talking about. They’re smart, insightful, dependable and have excellent skills in communication, interpersonal relationships, and in building consensus. They may not have the title but they have what it takes to bring people onto the dance floor. They are the kind of people you want along on the journey.
Great description of characteristics of leaders who inspires us to take action – “smart, insightful, dependable and have excellent skills in communication, interpersonal relationships, and in building consensus.” Thanks for your insights, Gary!
Tony Robbins: “Management is focusing on getting someone to get a result. Leadership is producing a standard in someone that when you’re gone, they will live by to produce higher level results consistently”.
Good call, Joe. Also appreciate your use of “management” and “leadership” which are actions. Too many people use the terms “managers” and “leaders” which connote role. Many managers provide great leadership as I pointed out in How Middle Managers Provide Leadership Everyday
Liked this post, Jesse – especially appreciated your emphasis on the trifecta of Character, Competence, and Vision.
Incisive. Thanks for sharing!
Character, competence and vision are indeed a trifecta. Thanks for calling that out, Ken.
I have a presentation on leadership. It’s all about relationships, trust, integrity and if you have those in place, then you can influence. Then you can show your competence.
Interesting. Makes sense that initially building trusting relationships would be a bigger driver of influence. Thanks for weighing in, Hal.
Good article. I think another important aspect of today’s leader is the quality of empowering team members around innovation. Nearly every industry has been disrupted, is undergoing disruption or is about to be disrupted…innovation is critical to stay competitive. Great leaders inspire their circle of influence to push the current thinking, fail fast and learn from mistakes. I speak from recent experience — my prior leader was an amazing inspiration and even after his departure, his team continues to think and act boldly.
Sign of a true leader – that they continue to inspire their team after they are gone. Thanks for your insights, Janette!