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Be Your Own Brand of Leader

| | Personal Leadership

Your Own Brand of Leader

In some professions and organizational cultures there is a disdain for the positional leader.  In some circles, rising up the hierarchy means selling out on your craft.  Others observe the behavior of positional leaders and don’t like what they see in terms of personality or behavior.

To become “that kind of leader” would be akin to selling out, at best, and selling your soul, at worst.

This is one big reason why there are those who would rather not be a leader, or labeled as one, despite their ability to lead.  Ascribing the label of “leader” to these folks is often not appreciated, because they don’t want anyone to think they have become something they are not. And then there are those who just don’t want others to think they somehow think they are better than they are.

An encounter with a group of teachers known as “The Leadership Team” in their school brought this belief to light. It is a myth that thwarts leadership.

While sitting with a group of teachers as they reflected on their own leadership, it became clear quite a few of them were struggling.  This group was known as the Leadership Team for their school and most had been part of this group for a few years.  Yet when asked to assess themselves as leaders the majority of them were seemingly paralyzed. As we discussed why, an underlying theme emerged.

While they had respect for their principal they did not want to ever be like many of the people in leadership positions they had seen come and go.  Blinded by what they thought being a leader was supposed to look like, they did not even consider the possibility that they could determine the kind of leader they wanted to be.

The notion of leading without a title has gained ground, yet the grip of past interpretations of what it means to be a leader continue to have a tight grip on many organizational cultures, not only in education, but in business and government as well.

It is particularly strong when you have highly technical people who pride themselves on their knowledge and skill in their craft.  Sometimes promotions are granted as a way to reward them financially, even though these individuals often have no interest in managing or leading.  Yet if you listen closely, you will discover that lack of interest in managing or leading is only part of the story.

Having been an IT professional for many years before becoming a leadership coach and organizational change consultant, I have explored this resistance to becoming a “leader” from both the inside and the outside.

What I have observed is that often people do not want to become a leader because they think they will have to become like someone else.  That someone else is often already “above” them on an organization chart or in a position of power that has impacted them in some way.

There is an unspoken belief for many that, if you get to a certain level or position, you will have to change who you are.

For some, it seems they would have to become like people for whom they do not have very much respect.  What that “certain level or position” may be cannot be defined globally.  It is very personal.

This belief is a myth that continues to thwart the loud call for leadership from every corner of our world. It is a myth that for many is barrier between the concept of leading without a title and embracing that they can and often are already leaders as a reality regardless of their position or role in life.  It is also a myth that keeps people from embracing the call to lead in their current role or position.

Being the most effective leader you can be requires that you become the most powerful expression of yourself, rather than attempting to emulate someone else. tweet this

So forget about the titles, even if you have one.

Cast aside the labels and notions of who you “should be.”

Let go of trying to emulate anyone else’s style or personality.

But please do not rob the world of your leadership.

Now more than ever, we need people like you who have the courage to forge their own brand of leadership. tweet this!

This article was adapted from A Myth that Thwarts Leadership, originally featured in The International Leadership Blogathon Hosted by Todd Nielsen.

photo credit: fotobaba

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Enter A Comment

Kathleen   |   05 March 2014   |   Reply

I love this article!

Susan Mazza   |   06 March 2014   |   Reply

Thank you Kathleen!

Janice B Gordon   |   14 March 2014   |   Reply

Great post and observations. I think it is particularly true of Women looking at what leadership looks like and not seeing many roles models they can identify with or hope to be like.

Susan Mazza   |   20 March 2014   |   Reply

Excellent point Janice. Role models can help us discover more about who we want to become. With or without them though the rewards are great when we have the courage to take a stand for who we want to be in the world.

Thanks for coming by!

Walt   |   26 March 2014   |   Reply

Could not agree more! Leadership comes from actions: not position.
The best leaders blend what they learn from others into their style.
Great article.