Leadership is a Behavior Not a Title


While there is an important distinction to make between managing and leading, there isn't necessarily as much of a distinction between being a manager and being a leader.

When many people in the world of business think of the word “leader,” they imagine somebody in a senior position, at the top of the org chart, a VP or higher. And when they think of a manager, they are thinking of someone who is more tactical, more frontline, more in the weeds. I don't believe this is true, because I believe that leadership is relational, not hierarchical.

I believe that if you have a follower, you are a leader. That means you don't have to have the title of manager in order to be a leader. If you're influencing someone’s work and direction of travel, and they are open to that influence and they're following you, then you are a leader.

With that established, the difference between leadership and management is that managing is about making sure that things are being done right, and leadership is about doing the right thing. A manager has more tactical, day-to-day, task-focused duties, while leadership is much more behavioral. Management is about doing; leadership is about being.

When you're thinking about leadership, it is about how an individual shows up rather than about what they are doing in terms of task-focused work around the supervision of other people. No matter where you are in an organization, if you have somebody reporting into you on an org chart or as part of a RASCI, you have management duties to perform: helping someone to prioritize, managing someone's performance, talking to them about their development, having weekly one-on-ones with them, and giving them feedback. That’s managing; that’s what you do. But leadership is about how you do it.

That said, you can be a manager without being a leader. It is entirely possible to hold the position of VP or CEO without thinking about your impact on other people, or about how to take your people on a journey, how to role model the right behaviors, how to generate motivation by articulating a why, or about supporting lines versus reporting lines. Just because someone is in the job with that senior title doesn't necessarily make them a leader.

Being a leader is about closing the gap between intention and behavior. The people in those management positions may have the intention of leading, but if their behavior isn't actually demonstrating leadership, they are not leaders. Again, leaders think about impact in equal proportion to thinking about intentions. Leadership closes the gap between intention and impact.

We can always mean well, but if we don't slow down to consider how our words, decisions, and behaviors impact those around us, we run the risk of doing some serious harm. But when you make the impact just as important as your intention, you will see how your relationships change. If leadership is also relational and non-hierarchical, then everything rests on the quality of the relationship you have with the people you want to have follow you.

Leadership is a Behavior Not a Title does not answer the question, “How do I be a great leader?”, instead it answers the question, “How do I bring more humanity to my leadership?” and in doing so will help you be someone who is worth following.


Leadership is a Behavior Not a Title will be published in September 2022 by Lioncrest Publishing. If you want an advance copy, contact me here.


If you want an organization full of leaders who are worth following, get in touch here:

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