Leadership is a means to an end; not an end by any means explains Veronica Cochran
Leadership is a wildly fascinating concept. It was during the classic childhood game, known as “Follow the Leader,” when I first remember entertaining the idea or concept of leadership. What is your earliest memory of leadership? Were you leading or being led? For many of us, our upbringing established the foundation of what is now our understanding of leadership. Since that time, our leadership theories have evolved through validation from our experiences. If you are anything like me, your earliest memories of leadership existed long before you had a formal manager or supervisor, let alone by the time you occupied a formal leadership position. Therefore, leadership must be more than a job-related skill; it must be a life skill.
Leadership is a subjective concept that can be very difficult to define. Yet, how we define leadership greatly influences how we approach leadership. Traditional attempts to define leadership by titles, credentials and positions have fostered exclusion, resulting in silos. The concept or responsibility of leadership cannot be solely limited to those in formally recognized leadership roles. Leadership is not a right for a select few but a responsibility for us all; it is our collective capacity to achieve desired results. No one is exempt from this shared responsibility, regardless of job or job title. This caste system philosophy of leadership has caused many to disqualify themselves from thinking and behaving as leaders, and thereby undermining the very essence and aim of authentic leadership. Real leaders are empowered by a sense of purpose not simply a position.
Would it surprise you to learn that you have both the potential and capability to lead? Believe it or not, this potential can be developed as you learn to lead effectively through both educational and experiential opportunities. Whether you are given a seat on a council, designated as a project lead, or simply asked to lead a meeting, you have been given an opportunity to learn to lead. It is these types of experiences that will begin reshaping how others see you and more importantly how you see yourself. Seeing yourself as a leader will begin awakening you to greater leadership opportunities that may exist; positive leadership experiences will begin to shift your paradigm and create your unique leadership identity. Developing your leadership identity will result in both increased confidence and competence.
Sharing the responsibility of leadership carries with it an obligation to develop our individual leadership capability so we can optimize both our individual and collective effectiveness. Yet, all too often we fail to prioritize our own development. Have you ever developed or improved a strength, skill or ability? Those of you who answered “yes” have accepted the responsibility of development and decided that you were worth the investment of time and/or money. Leadership development is not optional. It is a must-have for those who desire to be more confident, exceed expectations, receive desired recognition, and accelerate career advancement. The most successful leaders are perpetual students who make learning a lifelong endeavor.
You and I need to realize our full potential and achieve our goals. Leadership is a part of the process or a tool for helping us reach optimal engagement and job satisfaction. I like to say it this way, “leadership is a means to an end; not an end by any means”. Leadership is a vehicle that empowers us to enlist the help of others to achieve our goals or vision. When viewed in this light, it is clear that leadership is not simply how well we lead others but also how well we manage ourselves. Leadership allows us to contribute our strengths and abilities to a collective, shared mission. The responsibility of leadership cannot simply be confined to a singular role any more than air can be contained in a single room (outside of a vacuum).
Take a moment to recall a great leader. Did someone easily come to the front of your mind? Did you even consider yourself? If you answered no, then you certainly will not find yourself alone. Whether this exclusion is conscious or unconscious, it is evidence that we need a shift in our paradigms surrounding leadership. My challenge is simple, but, if taken seriously, it could have a profound impact on your future. Leadership is a required competence regardless of where and who you are leading. Prioritize your leadership development and dare to become the best leader you can be!