Organization & Leadership Consulting

Not Everyone Is a Leader, and Why

I am not picking a fight by saying that “Not Everyone is a Leader” but I am prompting you to fight with your own assumptions about what leadership is and what it is not.

There is a popular mindset that states everyone can be a leader because leadership is influence and everyone has influence on others. I know I am oversimplifying the concept behind this statement, but I am doing so because that is what a lot of people end up doing with it anyway. Leadership is much more than influencing others, although that is an essential aspect of it. Another way to say it may be “Not all people are capable of leveraging their influence as a means of exercising effective leadership.” Leaders can be influenced, and ought to be. But not all influencers are actually exercising leadership. 

Definitions of leadership abound. For this brief exercise, let’s frame it as “A leader is someone who defines and resources effectively how to get a group of people who share a common purpose from one place to another.” That change of “place” could be a set of goals and objectives, a wilderness excursion and safe return, or a meaningful shift in an organization’s culture. ‘Place’ can be geographic, philosophical, economic, or a state of being, etc. With that definition in mind…

Not all who influence are capable of getting people from one place to another…and just because someone has “followers” does not mean they are actually leading. It can simply mean they have gained a lot of attention even though nothing has changed for anyone. It can also mean that they simply influenced someone else to make the change in place happen. Leaders increase their efficacy when they allow themselves to be influenced. Not all who influence are innately effective leaders…some of them don’t want the responsibility, some don’t have the character, some should not be followed, and some are simply never followed. 

This brief nudge to your thinking is intended to whet your appetite for a series of six blogs on leadership development (five more to come). We will explore what leadership development means for the individual when it comes to their own development as a leader and what it means for that leader when it comes to their influence on the development of other leaders.

For now, consider the differences between influencing (as important as it is) and true leadership (as something even more substantive and impactful). This series of brief blogs will attempt to achieve both influence and an actual change of place for you and those you lead.

Every leader has a mindset and a motivation. We’ll go there next.


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