When you hear or read the word “Leader,” do you think of yourself? Well, perhaps you should. Your initial reply to this question may be something like this: “I’m not in a position of authority or supervision. How can I consider myself to be a leader?” Such a response is not uncommon. For some years, we have been taught to believe that leaders are those persons who have a title or position within an organization that denotes leader. Such persons are usually referred to as managers, supervisors, vice presidents and the like. Those without these titles are the “employees” or other organizational “representatives” whose responsibility, we are told, is to listen to the leaders (those with the position or title) and “do what we are told to do.”
In my role of helping others to become effective transformational servant leaders, I often hear similar descriptions from them whose understanding of leadership has been shaped by their own experiences.
I believe that anyone can assume leadership roles and responsibilities, without regard to his or her title or position in an organization, and irrespective of the type of organization in which one works or is associated. Leadership, you see, is not just about power or position, it is about relationships. More specifically, leadership happens when we engage others in an “influence relationship” that moves individuals and/or groups toward the accomplishment of a particular goal or objective. In that context, the leader is the person who works to establish this influence relationship and who encourages others to do the same.
Consider what the effect can be when taking this type of influence relationship leadership perspective. First of all, leadership becomes the potential responsibility of everyone in the group or organization. It is not always up to the “leader,” in the traditional sense that I described previously, to make sure that a particular task or goal is achieved. Anyone in the group or organization can be responsible to establish positive, influential relationships with other individuals or groups that help them to move forward towards the accomplishment of the organization’s mission. This type of leadership is very empowering to all those involved.
So, be a willing leader and follower who desires to establish those influential leadership relationships with others regardless of your role or position and no matter what the context may be—at work, at home, in your church, and within your community.
Dr. James Dittmar is the Founder, President, and CEO of the 3Rivers Leadership Institute which began in 2014. Prior to this Jim founded the award-winning Geneva College M.S. in Organizational Leadership Program in 1995 and served as Chair of the Department of Leadership Studies and Director of the M.S. in Organizational Leadership Program until 2015. Should you have any questions, comments or feedback, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.