Leading Without Leading

I have been thinking about the concept of leading without leading for quite some time. I know, it sounds like an oxymoron. The truth is, I feel this is how it should be done all of the time. As you all are pretty aware, I believe leadership is not a position or title, but how we treat those around us. I believe this is the case for any “position” you may hold in your company or organization. If you are a manager, team leader, CEO, CFO, or whatever title you hold, leadership should focus on leading without leading.

Let me try and dissect my thinking for you with this concept of leading without leading. The first idea that came to mind was a military platoon. When soldiers are sent to war, they are stationed within a platoon. There is of course a designated leader within the platoon, but that doesn’t mean the other members of the platoon aren’t leaders. On a mission, each team member is a leader. They lead by way of listening, watching, protecting, and observing the surroundings of the rest of the team. Their leadership is about the protection and preservation of their team members. In other words, each one of them is leading without leading.

Another idea that I considered with the idea of leading without leading is our fine men and women within the police force. In one way or another, they are community leaders. They represent what the right side of the law should look like. I know many upstanding police officers in my community, and I see them as leaders for what is right. They lead through their interactions with the public. The majority of police officers around our country are amazing individuals with strong characters. Their leadership comes in the form of public interaction, honesty, integrity, and uprightness of character. They lead in so many ways without being in a direct role of leadership.

Finally, when I think about this concept of leading without leading, I think of the people at the bottom of the career ladder. I think of the minimum wage workers, the 9 to 5ers, the people that work the ugly hours that no one else wants to work. These are the people that have managers telling them what to do, how to do it, and hold them to expectations. These are the people that are living paycheck to paycheck in hopes of making next month’s rent. These are the ones that are just starting out in the workforce. This could be a kid in high school, or a single mom who had to go back to work in order to take care of her baby. These are the people who have leadership above them. It is these people that lead without leading the most. If you are one of these people, this one’s for you. 

The idea of leading without leading is a focus on actions over words. Anyone can get up in front of a group of people and say a lot of pretty words about leadership. However, unless the character and actions of that individual match what they say, their leadership falls dead. Leading without leading is about living a life of integrity, honesty, accountability, humility, and having uprightness of character. If you are the CEO, do your actions match your words in leadership? If you are a team leader, do you show leadership or do you only speak it? If you are one of those who works minimum wage and have started your climb up the career ladder, do you work with integrity, honor, and uprightness of character, or do you just follow the crowd?

Above all, never forget that leadership has nothing to do with titles, positions, or even how much you make. Leadership is about attitude, character, determination, and most importantly, how we treat those around us. Leadership is about standing out of the crowd, doing what is right no matter the cost, listening earnestly, learning wholeheartedly, and most importantly, loving unconditionally. I guess what I am trying to say is everyone has the opportunity and the chance of being a leader. Whether you think so or not you are always being watched and observed by outsiders. Live a life worthy of leadership and lead without leading.

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