Leadership Or…

by  Mike Henry  |  Leadership Development

I read another article today on the difference between leadership and management. The writer, someone I appreciate, but from the industrial revolution, talked about leadership as a position. People in positions of leadership need the skills of leadership, vision setting, communication, etc. I don’t disagree.

However our free-agent age or our age of the individual has created a new need in relation to leadership. Rather than comparing leadership to some other talent within the organization, we need people throughout the organization with diverse talents who are leaders. Do you feel particularly gifted in management, administration, finance, engineering, marketing, sales, logistics, or operations?  Your organization needs your ability in those positions.

But if we are going to make a difference in our world, we need more character-based leaders in each of those positions. We need leadership to stop being something “other than” management, administration, engineering, etc. We need managers, administrators, engineers who are leaders at their core.  This is why I often equate leadership with responsibility.

If you tend to think of leadership as a position, you probably just bristled at my last sentence. You might have instantly thought “Everyone can’t be the leader” and you’d be right. Everyone can’t “be responsible.” Everyone can’t be in the position of leadership. But is a leader simply a position?

A leader is someone who develops a vision, takes responsibility, finds solutions, provides an example, influences by their actions. A character-based leader does this as a result of who-they-are. You can’t stop them. Their core being causes them to be the type of person who brings emotional energy to a situation, solves for the good of the many, and inspires others by their actions. It’s who they are, not their position, that produces this behavior.  Who would argue with the idea that we need more people to behave that way regardless of their position in any organization?

So why then do we insist that leaders be something other than managers (or engineers, secretaries, technicians, truck drivers, speakers, preachers, farmers, politicians, engineers or individual contributors of any kind)? When will we get over the idea that we must stop being something to be a leader? When will we see that we need a world of leaders, responsibly bringing their best energy to solve problems for more than just themselves.

Care to comment? Do you disagree? Let me know. Do you catch yourself thinking of a particular type of job that isn’t performed better by someone who brings energy and commitment to it? Do you really want people who aren’t leaders doing anything? Really?

Photo © Gabriel Blaj – Fotolia.com

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About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Katyberry  |  06 Jun 2013  |  Reply

I agree – leaders can be anywhere in an organisation, not just in “positions of leadership”. And organizations are the stronger for it.
In my team of 10 there are a few who show leadership abilities. There are occasions when I find this threatening “hang on a minute, I’m supposed to be the leader!”, but mostly I have learnt to appreciate these skills and abilities and use them to further the team’s aims.
I’m not necessarily a natural leader, someone with vision and persuasive ability, but I am a very good manager – good at helping my team grow, take initiative, and work with their strengths, so I see my recognition of, and capitalization on, other’s leadership traits as a really positive thing in our organisation

Mike Henry  |  07 Jun 2013  |  Reply

It sounds positive and it sounds like you’re making a contribution. For me, I try to remember that my job is to help everyone win. That often makes me the last person to cross the finish line. Thanks for the great comment. Mike…

Ben Simonton (@BenSimonton)  |  11 Jun 2013  |  Reply


Helping others to be the best they can be is the greatest leadership anyone can provide. It leads others to treat their work, their customers, each other, and their bosses similarly, in other words with great respect. Helping requires listening and then responding to the satisfaction of the other person, actions which demonstrate the greatest respect for that person and thus leads them to likewise.

Ginny Moe  |  07 Jun 2013  |  Reply

I agree, leaders can be in any position in the organization, and people in every position can and should contribute. People thrive on making a difference and they need to make their own contributions and take personal responsibility in order to achieve personal and professional happiness. For a variety of reasons some people will not like this more democratic leadership model. It is important to try to include those who object, but eventually they need to come on board, and someone may get hurt in the process. It is also important to know when to cut them out or move on yourself, for your own mental health or the health of the organization. I say this from using this democratic model from all positions in groups, top to bottom.

Mike Henry  |  07 Jun 2013  |  Reply

Thanks for the comment Ginny. I can’t agree more. There are some people who don’t want to take personal responsibility. There are always people who, at least in the current environment, want nothing more than to do what they’re told until they can leave and do something else. In the industrial revolution, companies wanted more of those types of people than they do today. That’s a good thing. Thanks again for the great comment. Mike…

Ben Simonton (@BenSimonton)  |  11 Jun 2013  |  Reply

Great article Mike. You hit the nail right on the head.

Unfortunately, our authoritarian society forces over 90% of us to become conformists, some more and some much less. It also teaches us only the authoritarian mode of managing people, that being to control people through commands. Conformists follow the leadership of management in the workplace, waste a huge amount of brainpower doing so, and follow bad leadership just as easily as good leadership. No one likes to take orders and knowing that we have been disrespected demotivates and disengages us.

The few of us who are not conformists are any company’s very best people because they don’t waste time trying looking around trying to figure out what they should do. They use their own value standards to decide what to do and how to do it. The effect is that the workplace gets 100% of their brainpower and thus 100% of whatever natural creativity, innovation, and productivity they have since all of that comes from their brain. And since one of their values is to do better everyday, they continually try to do better. These are the leaders you speak of Mike. The great thing is that an executive or manager can cause conformists to stop conforming, stop wasting brainpower on it, and never again follow bad leadership, only good. So the vast majority of conformists can be converted to being what you call leaders.

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