There are many definitions of leadership and even more concepts about leadership. The definition of leadership I grew up with was about a title or a position of elevation such as a captain of a sports team, a class leader (we called them Class Monitor), and in more recent years, the head of a department. As I have engaged more in leadership conversations, I have come to learn about positional leadership, where you lead because of your position.
The definition that I have found more embarrassing and very practical is one of “influencing” people in a particular way or towards a particular cause. It reminds me of my high school debates on “Are leaders born or made?” My answer is and has always been that all leaders are born but their leadership is only made evident by time, circumstances, and choices.
Considering my preference for defining leadership as influence and the fact that all leaders are born, this signifies that we are all leaders, the only difference is where we choose to exercise our leadership.
I strongly believe that we start with the leading of self and then the leading of others. A mid-level manager might have more influence on the direction a company will take as opposed to the General Manager if his thoughts and proposals sway decision-makers when they must decide. I once attended a leadership training where they called this ‘leading from the middle of the boardroom table’. This emphasized that not all leadership is positional or necessarily from the top down, but as we enter the job space, we must be aware that we can stand out by bringing our individual leadership strengths and/or traits to our workspaces at whichever level you start.
When it comes to leadership of self, one must be able to or seek to understand themselves, what traits they have, and how they affect those whom they lead with. Self-knowledge and self-evaluation are coupled with consistent improvement or training to enable one to manifest better leadership awareness of how their growth influences those around them.
One of the leadership conversations that I particularly liked was on the Wheel of life which teaches that a good leader must be able to be balanced in 6 dimensions: Finance which is managing one's finances debt, mortgagees, bills; Fitness regarding general health, exercise, mental health, and wellness; Family and Friends which goes along with having meaningful relationships and planning time to maintain them; Fellowships to include business associations, vocation, or employment; Fun and recreation to include creating time to relax and rejuvenate; and, Faith which is described as your inner strength or internal fuel. As a leader, one needs to be balanced in these dimensions. There are variants of the wheel of life concept. It all points to being able to be excellent in all dimensions of one’s life, which calls for active self-leadership.
I hope that reading these thoughts will lead you to evaluate areas in your life where you need improvement in leadership of self and allowed you to realize that not all leadership is positional, but we are all indeed leaders with a choice to manifest our leadership.
There are tools at the Illinois Leadership Center that can be found on their website and within their i-Programs that can help you do self-reflection on your leadership and other engagements that help grow your knowledge and skills in leading others and leading with leaders.