So, you have probably heard the old cliche that you don’t need authority to lead. No matter what position you hold in an organization, a leader can function in a leadership capacity regardless.
What do you think?
Do you believe this? Can a person in a clerical position for instance be a leader? Do they instead have to strive for the CEO job in order to make a difference? Is this just some hype and propaganda set up by senior managers to keep the rest of us down?
Looking for a conspiracy, see a communist country
Sometimes I wish I could give senior managers that much credit. The reality is that in most cases there is no grand plan for keeping people in their place, unless of course you want to emigrate to a country with a repressive regime in power. No the reality is a little more tame. Most senior managers are so busy doing their own job, trying to balance the priorities of leading and managing their own area of responsibility they give little consideration to the individuals two, three levels down. It is enough to have a clear strategy that the organization can follow and expect them to do so.
The “Grant” of Leadership
So back to the original question. Can you lead from “another” chair? Yes. Leadership is an activity that can be practiced by anyone. It is a sad state of affairs that so few people choose to. Obviously the degree to which you can exercise leadership changes with your position in the organization. An important point to make here is that leadership does not always have a clear power component. That is, often power is bestowed on the leader by the followers. This is not the case with management where power is a requisite part of the role.
Given this, we need to ask ourselves under what conditions will others grant us, either consciously or unconsciously the right to lead them. Remember there is no moment where they stop and grandly say “Sir will you lead us”. No it is subtle. Followers look to those who are a leader to answer tough questions, provide guidance under stress, to create a comfortable atmosphere.
What are the attributes that followers instinctively look for in a leader? Well that would be another post now wouldn’t it ;-)