On Leadership

A picture of Lori-Ann

We’ve been having discussions about leadership in our virtual offices lately. Sometimes these discussions happen in one-on-one meetings, but sometimes they occur in our weekly tea break on Friday afternoons.

“What do you think of adding the word ‘leader’ to our job positions?” @LeonKehl asked us one Friday at our team tea break. Some of us squirmed. We’re not used to thinking of ourselves as leaders.

But Leon’s point is that we are all leaders. In a virtual company, we all take responsibility for our work. We make choices that contribute to improving the company’s software, and its integrity, and builds up relationships with current customers and potential ones.

But yet, we still hesitate to call ourselves leaders.

Recently we launched a new website. We’d dutifully collected quirky bio information from each team member, and added a team page complete with photo and job title, and a link to each person’s LinkedIn profile. Before we launched, we showed the team the nearly ready site. I suggested we add ‘leader’ to our job titles for review and gather feedback. I quickly made the changes to the bios and off we went.

But the reluctance remained. What is a leader of software development, exactly? Or a vision leader? Who is actually leading the company if we’re all leaders? I think we struggled to imagine what qualities we each possessed that would justify calling ourselves leaders.

As @LollyDaskal, executive leadership coach and founder/CEO of Lead From Within, says in this article, leadership isn’t about power. It’s about simple, day-to-day acts that make others’ lives a little bit better. It’s about claiming your role as a leader, even if you don’t have the position within the company. I like her advice about believing that you have something to offer, and about making a difference. And about having the courage to act, to step forward when others are reluctant to.

Robert C. McMillan, author of The Next Gen Leader, offers a series of questions to ask yourself when pondering whether you’re a leader yourself. He identifies no fewer than six kinds of leaders within an organization: genetic, generic, go-to, growth, gateway, genius. You’ll have to read the article to see what these mean.

Tim Elmore writes in this Psychology Today article that how we perceive leadership depends on the definition we’re using. We have all sorts of excuses why we can’t be leaders, but, as he points out in the article, these “fail to embrace an authentic definition for leadership.”

So, why can’t we be leaders? Why shouldn’t we be leaders? Personally, I think I’m more of a high influence leader; a gateway leader, if we use McMillan’s definitions — I create opportunities and change for others. I’m a behind-the-scenes kind of leader, a connector who introduces people to new ideas and to others who can execute on great ideas. That often means the glory goes to someone else. But that’s okay, right? Because a good leader isn’t in it for the glory . . .