It is possible to be a Leader, and yet not demonstrate Leadership. However, the reverse is not true: it is not possible to demonstrate Leadership and not be a Leader. What?
What does it mean to be a Leader, and how is it possible to be a Leader and not be demonstrating Leadership? It begins with the very definition of the word Leader: a person who leads—one who is "out in front" or "first." The focus of this type of out-in-front Leader is the self. For example, think about the sales industry. Many recognition and reward programs are established to identify the "sales leader." This person is acknowledged as the one leading other sales professionals in volume or dollars and is generally identified as "the one to beat." Often the people who are "behind" the sales leader are lagging in numeric performance; they are intentionally not "following the leader." These followers may not aspire to be more like the leader, other than to experience similar sales results and performance. In fact, they would rather be "out in front" themselves and might do whatever is required to achieve or maintain this first place status. Because of this achievement orientation, followers may even personally dislike the leader. Similarly, the sales leader may not want anyone else on the team to exceed his/her own performance level, which would result in the loss of the leader's own personal recognition and reward. So even though there are people "following" the leader (in that they are behind), the leader may not be doing anything to support the follower's growth and success. Being a leader can be an independent, solo initiative, without the care or concern of another's growth and contributions.
Because we typically do not willingly follow hypocrisy, to demonstrate Leadership a person must also be a credible Leader. It is important to followers that a Leader personify the characteristics of Leadership that matter most: honesty, inspiration, foresight, and emotional competence. In other words, demonstrating Leadership requires the Leader to be a behavioral "model" that others aspire to be more like. This Leader type cares deeply about his/her constituents' growth and contributions, sometimes more deeply than they care about themselves. And in demonstrating the dynamics of extraordinary Leadership, people willingly mobilize and follow the guidance this credible Leader provides, even at times contributing more than is required. Followers of this Leader type typically both admire and respect the person. Their desire to contribute is further fueled because they believe in and buy into the cause. Since they can clearly see the intentions, they are willing to take risks in order to achieve the desired outcomes. As a contributing member of a committed team, they are both empowered and enabled to contribute to the cause. Lastly and just as important, they are recognized and encouraged for their contributions and accomplishments all along the way.
In the art of Leadership, the focus shifts beyond the self. As defined by Jim and Barry in The Leadership Challenge, "Leadership is the art of mobilizing others to struggle for shared aspirations." This change in focus—from self to others—does not typically occur without some conscious intention and effort. It requires energy and skill, and dedicated practice to become highly accomplished in making this transition. While most development models focus either on developing Leaders, or on enhancing people's ability to demonstrate Leadership, The Leadership Challenge development strategy incorporates both Leader and Leadership. This development combination of an evidence-based leadership model is a market distinguishing characteristic of The Leadership Challenge! So remember, it means a lot more to demonstrate the art of Leadership, than it does to simply be a Leader! Which Leader are YOU?
Craig Haponstall is president and CEO of Leadership Mechanics, LLC, and a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. An experienced and results oriented speaker and coach whose corporate career has included positions with Southwest Airlines and The Tom Peters Company, he can be reached at www.leadershipmechanics.com.