For companies and organizations, titles provide structure and help to identify the right people for projects and decisions. A title represents someone’s responsibility and level of influence. For individuals, titles help to gauge professional progress and make career transitions. Every company or organization has a different title scheme that is either intentional or a product of past decisions and organic growth.
Many companies and organizations use the world “leader” to title certain full-time positions or even temporary roles. The word “leader” is tossed around a lot lately in the business world. What most people don’t pause to realize is that the word “leader” can have powerful impacts for progress and culture if used strategically. So, should “leader” be used as an official title in companies and organizations?
No, because it doesn’t make the title functional.
The word “leader” is used in titles by many organizations to signify that someone leads a team of people or an initiative. However, the term “leader” doesn’t really help to identify someone’s responsibility level or influence relative to others in the organization or industry. A leader is someone that guides a vision or initiative forward, usually with a team of people. A leader doesn’t necessarily have direct reports; he or she may be leading a project or function within the organization. Titles that use the word “leader” can become confusing for people within the organization. Since companies use the word “leader” in so many different ways, the “leader” title requires further explanation when making career transitions.
No, because it doesn’t encourage organization-wide leadership.
Using the word “leader” in titling can also be demotivating for employees since everyone should aspire to be a leader, regardless of whether they have the title or not. The title “manager” and “leader” are interchangeable in many organizations. While manager is a title, leader is an attribute that should be attainable for everyone in the organization. Everyone from entry level, to manager, to director, and C-level should aspire to be a leader.
No, because leadership is something that must be practiced in action everyday.
Sometimes, when someone is given a “leader” title, he or she may not act as a leader really should. This sets a bad example for others in the organization as to what leadership in action looks like. Leadership is something to aspire to everyday and earn based on daily performance. Leadership is an active quality rather than a stagnant title. One should be known as a leader based on his or her actions and qualities, not based on a title. Anyone in the organization can act as a leader and therefore be recognized as a leader.
A more powerful use for “leader” is recognition.
To best leverage the powerful word “leader” for yourself or for your organization, use the word to recognize leadership qualities and actions. Leadership qualities differ for each person and situation. However, highlighting leadership qualities serves as a feedback loop for reinforcing behavior and building culture. Instead of giving someone a fixed “leader” title, recognize leadership qualities and actions of individuals on a regular basis at team meetings, performance reviews, and one-on-one meetings.
“Leader” is a live attribute, not a stationary title.
No matter your level – whether executive, entry, or management, take time each week to reflect on your own leadership qualities and the actions that led you to draw those conclusions about your leadership or your work, team, or life. Validate yourself as a leader with evidence and watch as you continue to play to your authentic strengths and qualities. Also, reflect on your blind spots – where you could be a stronger leader – and ask for feedback from respected leaders or peers you work with.
Leaders are essential for organizations because they enable the organization to progress and grow. Encourage everyone to aspire to lead everyday, including yourself. Take “leader” out of titles. Use this powerful word for reflection and recognition in order to build a team of leaders.
Article written by Hilary Jane Grosskopf, Systems engineer, leadership strategist, writer, and yogi.
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