What If Every Job Was a Leadership Position?

| | Personal Leadership
What If Every Job Was a Leadership Position?

How would you respond if I said to you, “Every job is a leadership position”? Does it seem like a nice concept, but not a real possibility? Or is it the way you approach your job and the way you expect others to approach theirs?

If you don’t have a title that is labeled specifically as a leadership position, you may be thinking things like: “I don’t have any authority,” or “I don’t make the decisions,” or perhaps even “they don’t pay me enough for that.”

And if you do have a leadership title, you might be wondering whether I am suggesting that “everyone is in charge.”

Whether you can truly embrace in thought and action what may seem like a radical notion to some is entirely a matter of context. Specifically, it is function of what you think leadership means.

Observing your reaction to the statement that “every job is a leadership position” can reveal a lot about your own context as it applies to leadership in this moment.

I firmly believe that leadership is not about position. I believe that anyone can lead and be a leader. I believe that developing the mindset and capability of being a leader as broad and deep as possible is fundamental to transforming our organizations and transcending the problems of today.

Leadership development is no longer just about preparing the chosen few in leadership positions to be better leaders: it is about developing anyone interested in making the biggest possible difference they can make, so they can make an impact based on their passion and commitment, not simply based on their position.

Yet the context that “leadership is a position” remains alive and well in the world!

We can talk about needing to change that perception all we want. We can make proclamations that anyone can be a leader and everyone must lead. But unless we are willing to own our perception of leadership — not how we would like it to be or think it should be, but rather how we truly perceive leadership in the world around us — it will be very hard for us to be an agent of change in altering the deeply rooted beliefs that keep us all stuck in the past together.

Change has to begin with us – each and every one of us.

For many years, I worked as an employee for companies both big and small. I saw the context of “leadership = position” in the expectations, thinking processes, and actions of both others and myself.

Even when I was working on my own and subcontracting for others, the leader-follower relationship expressed by a context of boss-subordinate influenced my own thinking, actions, and expectations as well as the thinking, actions, and expectations of the people for whom I worked.

As an employee and subcontractor, I had been coaching individuals and teams in being leaders and in challenging and transforming the status quo successfully for years. But in those organizations, I was operating from the outside looking in. It was easier to see what was missing and in the way, and to shine the spotlight so my clients could see more clearly, choose new beliefs, and take new actions.

It was a reminder for me about just how hard it is to clearly see the context we are living in.

When it comes to a culture, it’s “just the way it is.” Like water is to a fish, it is just there. We don’t see it until someone or some circumstance challenges or questions us into being awake to our beliefs and our habits of action.

The culture is far easier to observe from the outside looking in. And the more deeply rooted the belief system, the more resistant to change it will be. That is why being an agent of change in any human system requires rigorous introspection, ruthless determination, and often great courage.

If you want to cause change where you work and live, try taking on the perspective that leading — and leading change — for the sake of the future you say you want is up to you.

Whatever job or role you may fill, what would be possible if you related to it like it was a leadership position? What if you empowered those who work for you to do the same?


Image credit: SCY


Enter A Comment

Joe Croarkin   |   14 July 2016   |   Reply


You make several excellent points. Sometimes we will wait for someone to proclaim us in charge. However, I’ve been in situations where clearly no one was in charge despite titles. It was in those moments that I learned some valuable lessons about leadership.

What you wrote, “We don’t see it until someone or some circumstance challenges or questions us into being awake to our beliefs and our habits of action,” was perfect. We have to learn how to change the context in which we operate. For those of us who want to lead, just do it!

Kind regards,
Joe Croarkin

Susan Mazza   |   15 August 2016   |   Reply

Thanks Joe. Those are the moments when I truly believe we all need to take on the point of view that you don’t have to be THE leader to be A leader. And often in the process you ultimately realize you actually are not only A leader but set yourself on the course to becoming THE leader. Like you said…just do it! (and sorry for the long delay on my response!)

Mike Henry Sr.   |   15 July 2016   |   Reply

You know I agree. Thanks for the great post. We should allow everyone to lead in pursuit of our organization’s goal. As long as individuals take responsibility for change on behalf of their boss or their company, they are leaders. Few bosses want to maintain a stifling culture or a restrictive status quo. For those that do, lead yourself to another position in another organization!

Thanks again. Mike…

SYED MOHIUDDIN HUSSAIN   |   16 July 2016   |   Reply

Yes,every job is a leadership position. If, who’s hold in-build quality of leadership in the person.

Chery Gegelman   |   20 July 2016   |   Reply

Susan, You are totally preaching to the choir here!

At one time in my life I worked for an organization that didn’t just say they wanted everyone to be leaders, they invested in making it happen. They flew every employee from multiple locations across the U.S. to a three-day-meeting. In the meeting they shared a vision for what could be and invited everyone to be a part of it. Before the event ended they asked groups of employees to come up with cost saving projects or revenue generating projects. With the intention of covering the cost of the event. Instead they made huge profits and massively grew the organization. …And encouraged people at all levels to continue to challenge the status quo. Even as new titled leaders were hired and didn’t understand that kind of empowerment – it gave employees the courage to lead from who they were, not where they sat.