Busting common leadership myths, part 1: You definitely don’t need this to lead

2 minute read article Leadership   Technology   Wisdom Comments

I want to tackle some common leadership myths, but instead of hitting you with thousands of words all at once, I’m going to tackle them one at a time. I want to start with an easy one that I hear from people all the time.

Myth: In order to lead, you need the title

The short version

tl;dr - No, you don’t need a title to be a leader.

The long version

What you need is integrity. What you need are actions. You need to lead from the front. You need to set the example, to be willing to jump in to help out, to do the dirty work, to never think a job is beneath you. You need to give credit where credit is due, and you need to own up to your mistakes. You need to apologize when you fuck up. You need to serve others, and you need to empower and inspire them.

If you do those things, and you’re genuine about them, people will trust you and they will follow you.

So no, you don’t need a title to be a leader. What you need a title for is to manage people. Leading people and managing people to me are two distinct activities, each requiring similar, but slightly different skills.

Can a people manager be a leader? Yes, but only if they do the things I mentioned above.

One more thing though that I think is relevant, and that’s a LinkedIn post from Jason Fried, Co-founder and CEO of 37signals, in which he said:

A screenshot of a post from Jason Fried on LinkedIn that says You don’t get to call yourself a leader. That’s up to other people.

Jason even said in a comment that it’s ok to call yourself a servant, but let other people add the leader. Cool.

Words matter, so in my leadership development, it was stressed that we didn’t say things like “boss” or “manager.” The culture said we used the word “leader” instead. It felt like it meant something because I saw “leader” in the actions of the people around me. I guess to Jason’s point, they weren’t necessarily calling themselves “leader”, but I was assigning them that particular label.

Of course, my title actually had the word “leader” in it: “team leader, technology”. I tried very hard to be a servant to my team, and I believe I succeeded. I try very hard to serve my team today.

Final Thoughts

Leadership is an important topic to me. I hope you enjoyed this post and got some value out of it.

I have a few more myths about leadership I want to bust, so stay tuned!

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