Being a “leader” seems to be a buzz word these days in any organization.  For some, it’s something to aspire to.  For others, it’s something that is expected.  And yet, what version of the word “leader” are you operating with? And which side of the fence are you sitting on? Taking or Earning?

First, lets look at what “leader” means.  If you look in the dictionary it states: “The person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country”. Pretty straight forward….is this your version?  Or if you ask John Maxwell, being a leader is “someone who has influence, nothing more, nothing less”.  What about the business dictionary: “A person or thing that holds a dominate or superior position within its field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others”. Is this closer to your version? Clearly we can see that depending on who you ask being a leader can mean many different versions of you. So which one do you choose?

 In watching leadership change over the last 18 years there has been one constant that has remained the same – it can be learned.  Which means that the leader, or definition thereof, becomes a result of the choices we make.  It is up to us to choose the path and it is up to our people to define the result. So again, which one do you choose?

In looking at two very prominent influencers on leadership we can see that both agree on one thing: it’s a progression.  But a progression in what? Status? Influence? Skillset? All three and more? Some would argue that you are a leader because of the position you hold; your “title”. That no matter what, your position demands others follow you.  Others would say that you become a leader once you have influence, no matter where you are on the organizational chart. And that influence could have you actually leading up to the person with the “title”. In looking at yourself, where do you fall within that spectrum? 

We started this looking at whether being a “leader” is taken or earned and if we were to really look at our journey to today I believe the answer is both!  There are moments in our lives where we earned being a leader (captain of the team, promotion at work, etc). And there are moments when we took the position (starting a new job, joining a new team, etc).  However, wherever you started it came down to one choice: Who do I want to be? Once you answered that then everything else became an extension of that choice. 

So what does that mean? That being a leader is defined by you and the choices you make.  And the results….well, those will be defined by those on the other side of your choice.  I think Benjamin Hooks said it best – “If you think you are leading and turn around to see no one following you, then you are just taking a walk”.