Do you still believe in “leadership”?

I honestly didn’t expect one of my dear friends to throw in this question. But he did. And for a moment, I was stunned. It wasn’t a question you would normally expect in a social gathering but here I was in a reflective mode when I should’ve just chilled. Old habits die hard after all.

I asked what’s on his mind or if there’s anything specific he wanted to check. He simply shrugged and said, “well, just checking… because I surely have given up hope on leadership. The folks I meet within my circle, they’re leaders by title not by their talent or attitude. You and I may be talented by virtue of our outlook and the way we were bred but I don’t see that often. It seems leadership’s given on a platter to everyone.

I would partially agree with the sentiment. Most leaders become entitled to certain (higher) positions for having spent a lot of time (tenure or institutional knowledge as they would say) instead of actually deserving it owing to their leadership qualities. It’s a sad fact and I wish I could do something about it. But I can’t.

And guess what? That’s totally okay. Because years ago I realized that leadership is a matter of an attitude, which means anyone can become a leader. They don’t have to wait for anyone’s permission to exercise and practice the qualities that would make a fine leader. They can start now and keep refining their skills, influence people, change lives and create an impact until the time they are handed a position that fits their stature.

Of course, there are no guarantees to your growth as a leader if “titles” is what you believe in. But I’m confident that if you’re committed and passionate about leadership and its impact, you can’t help but attract great opportunities for yourself. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. And the most influential leaders know it.

The fact that I don’t need anyone’s permission to be a leader is liberating. It helps me to be myself and serve others without worrying about anyone’s judgments. I just do me. And that’s all that matters. I’ve been at it for way too long than anyone would care but I know and still believe that if anyone’s got an ounce of influence that’s got to be attributed to their leadership.

Time and again John Maxwell has said it the best, “Leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.”

Embrace it. Keep at it. And be intentional about it.