Position or Permission in Leadership?


When I say leader, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

For me, the first thing that comes to mind is a title, like president or CEO. Of course, I think of those initially because they’re in the “big wig” positions. They are people usually leading countries, organizations and businesses to greatness.

However, if you give me five minutes, my answer will be different. I’ll begin to evaluate people I personally know. I’ll think about their character, their ability to lead and how they have impacted me. After thinking about it, my answer will be names of people I know personally and have been influenced by in various ways — my parents, my bosses here at Peake Media, several professors during my time at college.

Recently, the leaders of Peake Media have started reading, “The 5 Levels of Leadership,” by John C. Maxwell. If you haven’t read it, I recommend the book, simply based on the first two chapters.

The title is self-explanatory: Maxwell reveals the five levels of leadership and how to progress between them.

Level one is that of Position: You are a leader simply because you have the title. Nothing more, nothing less. It describes the people you might think of initially when I say “leader,” but not upon deeper reflection.

The thing is, Maxwell explains that “Leadership is action, not position.” It is more than just holding a title and your own corner office; it is about who you are as a person and about your relationship with those you work beside.

I bet you’d agree that in order to follow someone you have to respect them, and vice versa. You’ll probably also admit that if that person cares about you and is loyal to you, you’re more likely to want to work with them.

But, if that person is instead flaunting their position, using their title as the reason behind why you should do this or that, I assume you’d be less likely to go where they lead.

In your business, you will have the chance to grow as a leader. Coaches and trainers will probably come your way, and you’ll also have an opportunity to help them grow in leadership. However, the first step in doing this is realizing that leadership does not come with Position.

Maxwell gave a great example of what one leader, Linda Sasser, does in order to drive this point home to new leaders: When she thinks someone is up for the challenge of leading a team, she’ll give them a task/responsibility without the title. She said it is chance for the new leader to figure out how to lead without having positional authority.

Maxwell explained that Sasser will usually have to ask that same leader – who is usually struggling at the beginning –, “Why are you telling them what to do? A leader finds ways to influence action. Have you asked them how you can help them? Ask them about the challenges they have in their position. Maybe there is a way you can work together as a team and make things more efficient for one another. Form a relationship with this person and show interest in them.”

You, Affiliate, are in a leadership position. You are running your own business after all! However, as owner and head Coach, are you holding just a title? Or are you building relationships and encouraging your team? Are you gaining trust and truly leading your staff? If not, then realize it is not too late to change.

Besides, the second level of leadership, Permission, is where people follow you because they want to. That sounds better than them following you because of your position, doesn’t it?

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at heather@peakemedia.com.