I casually refer to our company’s most talented employees–the ones with passion for moving the company forward–as the company’s “leaders”. This includes some people on the executive team, of course, and it also includes some front line team members. By contrast, it also excludes some team members who have authority or are in traditional management positions.
You do not have to be in a “leadership” position to be a “leader”. I have known a few key decision-makers I would not call leaders. The question, then, is when does somebody become a leader?
I write about leadership and I am passionate about leadership, but I have never formally considered myself a leader, even if others have. “Leader” is not on my business card.
I have been in leadership roles for the last 20 years so at what point is it safe to say, “Yes, I’m a leader!” The short answer is, “probably never.”
“Leader” is not a goal any more than “great” is a goal. When is someone great? There are great people, sure, but did Jesus ever say, “I’m great, now. I’m a leader!” How about Martin Luther King, Jr? Gandhi?
There is a saying in martial arts that Black Belt is not the goal of training. It is the beginning. When you achieve your Black Belt, you have finally reached the level of “student”. Though there are people who hold the title of “Master” in martial arts, I have yet to meet a 6th degree Black Belt or above who believes he has “mastered” martial arts.
When are you a leader? Whenever you decide you are. But once you do, you are probably no longer a leader.