Who is a leader? That question has become very loaded today. It has become politically incorrect to say that someone isn’t a leader, or doesn’t have leadership potential. The democratization of leadership has led to beliefs that anyone can be a leader.
The other night I was at a networking group (our group name is “The Profitable Broads”, which should tell you something about our membership), when a discussion about leadership began. One of the members said, “well, we’re all leaders here”. It turns out that I was the only person at the table of that felt that she wasn’t a leader.
To which my friends all immediately replied, of course you are a leader. You teach young women. You lead in the classroom every day. I still don’t buy it. And don’t assume that I am expressing false humility. What my friends did was mistake role modelling for leadership. I suggest that I am a role model in the front of the classroom. I teach, I coach and I encourage. But leadership is more than teaching, coaching and encouraging. Leadership is about articulating a vision for an organization or group of people and influencing them in a positive way to achieve that vision together. I’m just doing my job, not leading anyone.
And that is okay. I certainly commit acts of leadership occasionally, including educational and strategic leadership. But am I a leader? Certainly I can be a leader if I’m called. And I choose to be a leader in certain situations where I have a passion. But I believe that I’m an effective follower most of the time. I’m also a role model for my students. I try to model effective, productive workplace behaviour. But let’s face it, while good followers are not around in massive numbers, there are still a lot of good followers. It’s not particularly unique or special to be a good follower.
So, the idea of leader, that was once something that very few aspired to, is now assigned to everyone. I think that I can have more impact on our organization as an effective employee, whether taking the role as leader or follower. But no matter what role I’m undertaking, I want to a good role model.