Calling Yourself a Leader Doesn't Make You One


Over the course of my career I’ve worked with and for a variety of individuals.

Some have been strict, others more laid back. They’ve had a variety of titles both given and chosen.

Alone with my thoughts, I’ve come to realize that too many people see themselves as a leader when they don’t have the mentality, skills or understanding to do so.

It really hit home as I was reading Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking this weekend when she writes:

“We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.”

Those two sentences made me stop in my tracks.

After highlighting them, I found myself reading them over and over again. It summed up so many of my thoughts perfectly.

Just because you start something, doesn’t mean that you are instantly a leader. To earn that title you have to have people follow and be inspired you while building and growing whatever it is that you are the leader of.

Leaders don’t have to be loved, but they must be respected.

Not everyone is suppose to lead. We each have our role to play and looking around I can see many haven’t found theirs yet and that is ok.

Sure, everyone wants to be the lead dog, but it isn’t the right place for many.

Hopefully more will take Susan’s comment to heart like I did.

The world needs more leaders like that!

  • Meg Tripp

    It always amazes me that more people aren’t scared of taking on that title, but I think it’s exactly as you say: they don’t really know what it means to be a leader, and what kind of responsibility that involves. They see “leadership” as synonymous with “being the loudest” or “telling others what to do” or “being up front” (though sometimes it may involve all of these things!)

    Real leaders understand that leadership is/should be a burden you bear, not a mic you grab–and that it’s more about taking responsibility, not control.

  • I’ve always believed that, in any leadership role I’ve held, if “10 people want my role/job and no one remembers my name when I’m gone”, I’ve done my job. My role is to become dispensable, not indispensable, and in the words of Lao Tzu…”let the people believe they came to that conclusion all by themselves.”

    Hurts like hell sometimes not to be recognized/applauded/noted for the work done, but that’s just ego. Leaving an organization in better shape than when you came to it…having an impact on peoples’ lives far beyond what they thought possible…that’s what’s important to me. Cheers! Kaarina

    • Ego is easily one of the most evil parts of being human. That is for damn sure.