Leaders Come in All Sizes, Shapes … and Titles

“Beam me up Scotty,” is an ingrained phrase created by Captain Kirk in the famed Star Trek series—when the good Captain spoke, everyone listened— they acted or reacted.Clint Eastwood’s famed quiet guidance on his movie sets is revered by those who work within his crews.

Steve Jobs non-traditional work style, yet focused vision, has led Apple Computer to the top of the heap, not to mention the Disney Board with his ownership and sale of Pixar to Disney in exchange of millions of shares of Disney stock.

All are leaders, yet does their title automatically make them a leader?

Would Captain Kirk be Captain Kirk if he wasn’t able to exercise his power over his crew and be focused at whatever deep space was tossing the Enterprise’s way?

Would Clint Eastwood be able to consistently pull off the quality of film that comes out of his stables if he was a director who communicated by yelling at and second guessing everything his crew and stars did instead of simply rolling the cameras and trusting that each was a pro, had done their homework and were ready to roll?

Would the mercurial Steve Jobs been able to step back into Apple Computer after he was so publicly dumped years ago and take the company to new levels after many had propheticized the company’s total demise if he hadn’t been so focused on Apple’s resurrection coupled with his personal ability to get things done?

Are there leaders who are there in title only, but worthless for the vision and influence on their companies? And, are there people who have minor titles, if any, who act as leaders?

The real question is, do you need a title to be a leader?

According to Colorado author Mark Sanborn, the answer is simply, “No.”

In his just released book, You Don’t Need a Title To Be A Leader (Currency/Doubleday), he writes, “Everyone matters and everyone makes a difference. Genuine leadership – leadership with a ‘little l’ – is not conferred by a title, or limited to the executive suite.”

According to Sanborn, “Titles are not a description of a job. Rather, they can suggest what you do, but can’t specifically define what a person does—they are more like broad brushstrokes.”

People are attracted to titles. It is not uncommon for some employers to offer promotions/bonuses with a title (assistant VP) instead of the old fashion way—cash. Unfortunately, some workplaces practice the art of title inflation. Fluff with no meaning or substance.

Truth be told, there are many bosses and executives (and employees) who don’t understand the art of leadership. Sanborn says, “True leadership is shown through our everyday actions and the way we influence the lives of those around us.”

The Challenge

Yearly, studies indicate that people leave organizations because of their bosses. Up to 80% of employee turnover is directly caused by ineffective managers and leaders. You don’t need to have a PhD in economics to understand that when people leave, big bucks go out the door with them. The cost of replacement is huge.

In the 90s, local authors Ed Oakley and Doug Krug wrote Enlightened Leadership (Fireside). Their newest offering is Leadership Made Simple (Enlightened Leadership Solutions).

Oakley and Krug write, “Leaders and managers face an ever increasing pressure to meet higher standards of performance with fewer resources and less time. Many who are promoted quickly discover the gap between knowing how to do the job themselves and how to produce results through others. They often lack leadership tools, learning rather through trial and error.”

Leaders are challenged in every corner. The maintenance of high morale, development of internal talent, creating a culture of accountability and personal responsibility, being able to meet the needs of employees, building strong teams, and dancing with the ever-changing change of today’s workplace, demands more than just a title.

Leaders today don’t have the luxury of yesteryear when they could take their time, stumble a bit, learn along the way and then create their masterpiece. Change isn’t subtle, it’s blatant and it’s fast in coming.

Part of the answer is to simplify solutions. Oakley and Krug recommend that all companies need to accelerate the development of leaders by knowing what has worked and what hasn’t worked. Then,

· Implement the experiences of successful leaders and managers;

· Know what competitors and other markets practices are and use what works for them; and

· Create environments where hands on experience leads to the rapid development of rising leaders.

So, what do the fictional Captain Kirk played by William Shatner, director Clint Eastwood and business executive Steve Jobs have in common besides fame and fortune? They understand and practice the key principles of leadership that Sanborn outlines in his book.

Each knows that the have to be good with people, work with their teams and let them take the lead; they know that if they aren’t focused, little will be achieved; they constantly learn and yearn for self mastery; they are all superb communicators, be it verbally or non-verbally; and they have honed the art of execution—they each get done what they need to get done.

Successful leaders create successful teams and workplaces. They aren’t afraid of the “E” word—empowerment. They empower those who work with and for them. That front line receptionist/gate keeper may be the best door opener to your business with his or her knowledge, friendliness and outreach to the customer. Title? Minimal. Power? Immense.