The Upside of Position
When a person gains a leadership position, it is usually because someone with authority perceives talent and potential in that person. In the beginning, this person has limited power. Most leaders need to prove themselves before they are given more responsibilities.
Values are the soul of leadership and they drive behavior. Before leaders can grow and mature, they must have a clear understanding of their values and commit to living consistently with them. Successful leaders must fully understand what they believe in three key areas:
1. Ethical Values: What does it mean to do the right thing for the right reason?
2. Relational Values: How does a person build an environment of trust and respect with others?
3. Success Values: What goals are worth spending a life on?
The Downside of Position
People who rely on their positions invariably place a high value on holding on to those positions above everything else they do. This attitude does nothing to promote good relationships with others. These positional leaders often make other people feel small by not genuinely believing in them. They assume people cannot instead of assuming that theycan; they assume people will not rather than believing that they will; and they view people as liabilities instead of assets.
Positional leaders focus on getting the largest staff and the biggest budget they can — not for the benefit of their organizations, but so they can expand and defend their turfs. This action often incites others to do the same, creating a vicious cycle of gamesmanship, posturing, and maneuvering. This often results in departmental rivalries and silos.
When people use their positions to lead others for a long time and fail to develop influence, they become branded as positional leaders and rarely get opportunities for advancement. The people who work for them often use the limits of their job descriptions as leverage, doing only what is required of them.
The single greatest hindrance to a leader’s growth is becoming positional in his thinking. When a person thinks he has arrived — no matter where his position is in the organization — he has lowered expectations for himself, sold his leadership short, and fallen into a no-growth mindset.
Leadership development is a lifelong process. Leaders with a position mind-set need to think, “Today I received a leadership position. I will endeavor to become a better leader every day.”
Beliefs That Help a Leader Move Up to Level 2
There are four statements a leader must embrace internally before being able to change from a positional leader to a permissional one:
1. Titles Are Not Enough: Knowledge that titles have little real value and that position is the lowest level of leadership brings a healthy dissatisfaction with Level 1 as well as a desire to grow. Leadership is meant to be active and dynamic. Its purpose is to create positive change.
2. People — Not Position — Are a Leader’s Most Valuable Asset: A leader cannot focus on rules and procedures to get things done or keep things going. The reality is that people get things done, not the playbook they use. Relying on position is not the ideal way to get the most out of people. People must be put ahead of position.
3. A Leader Does Not Need to Have All the Answers: A leader’s job is not to know everything, but to attract people who know things he does not.
4. A Good Leader Always Includes Others: Stand-alone leadership does not lead to teamwork, collaboration, or high achievement. Moving from Level 1 to Level 2 requires a change of attitudes toward other people. Others must be included in the leadership journey.
Guide to Growing Through Level 1
Leaders can use these guidelines to plan Level 1 growth:
*Write a declaration of commitment to growth that describes what actions will contribute and how it will be approached. Sign and date the declaration. Put it someplace safe for future reference.
*Answer three questions to describe the type of leadership desired:
- Who am I?
- What are my values?
- What leadership practices do I want to put in place?
*Shift from positional leadership to potential leadership. Rewrite goals to embrace a non-positional mind-set.
*Focus on the vision. Write down the vision of the organization and how the team helps to contribute to that vision. Then write down specific ways to make it easier for team members to help fulfill that vision.
*Find a leadership coach. Ask someone to serve as a coach or mentor. Meet with that person 4 to 12 times a year. Plan what questions to ask and what type of advice is needed to solve specific problems.