A Title Doesn’t Make a Leader

Let me tell you about the greatest leader I’ve ever worked with.

He walked the talk. He didn’t say anything he wasn’t willing to do.

He showed a commitment at work. He also showed a commitment to his family/personal life. And he communicated his priorities. When he had to miss a huge conference at work, he told his colleagues that it was because his daughter was home from college and spending time with her for those few days was more important to him.

When his son asked him to help with a school project, this leader found another adult to step in because he’d committed to helping the team meet a deadline at work.

He operated with radical honesty. He disliked sharing difficult feedback and hated upsetting anyone even more, but as a leader, he knew it came with the territory. He operated with his head and his heart, so when he delivered bad news, it was well-received because he was respected and trusted.

While the bottom line of the business was a success metric, it never compromised his integrity or his values.

Though his title indicated a position of power, he welcomed all opinions. He believed in diversity of thought. In fact, he’d sometimes change direction based on his openness to others’ suggestions. He knew the decision was ultimately his, and he didn’t apologize when his decisions weren’t unanimously supported.

His quiet confidence meant others had confidence in him. Yes, he had a demonstrated success record, but he made it known that his success was always a team effort, regularly thanking those involved with any of his wins.

He demonstrated empathy. He didn’t just listen. He actively found commonalities in someone else’s experience, putting himself in their shoes as much as possible. They always felt truly seen and supported. Lip-service wasn’t in his vocabulary.

He didn’t rely on his title, his office, his watch or his car to define his power. Rather, his behaviors demonstrated an inspirational and servant leader because that’s who he was.

In my experience, he was a unicorn. Because he knew how to lead himself, he knew how to lead others. His radical self-awareness allowed him to respond and act with intention, always pushing himself to challenge a mere reaction.

So many leaders I’ve worked with are leaders only in title. Sure, they often exceeded metrics. They grew the business. They recruited A players… And they often confused success as getting shit done rather than having a purposeful impact. They preached but they didn’t practice. They sacrificed honesty and integrity for being liked or beating targets. Others’ titles dictated how much of the respect-pie they’d share. They operated in a dog-eat-dog world, so they’d do whatever it took to be top dog, under the guise of “for the greater good”.


Which one of these leaders sounds like YOU?

Which one of these leaders would you rather work for?

A title doesn’t make a leader.

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