Practicing Leadership Without a Title

News flash, displaying leadership does not require a title. You do not need to be a supervisor, director, manager, or executive to execute leadership in your professional or personal life.

This past spring I went on my very first backpacking experience through Pisgah National Park in North Carolina. Each day our trip supervisor named new Leaders of the Day (LOD’s) who would be in charge of the map, compass, and getting the group from the starting point to the next night’s camp.

Never having a day of backpacking experience, nor the competency to use a compass, I was a bit uneasy being named a LOD by our trip supervisor for the very first day.

To answer your question, yes we did take the scenic route (read, got lost), but we also reached our destination that night for camp.

I learned that week that you can display leadership while doing something you have next to zero experience in, a title does not define who and when one can practice leadership, and the best definition of leadership is purposeful influence.

Purposeful influence requires being aware of yourself and those around you. We all influence those around use without a second thought, but leadership takes the ability to effect another and gives it purpose.

Our current culture often defines leadership as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” This definition gives the impression that one must be in a specific role or have a dignified title. This definition also implies a limitation: that those you influence must be “beneath” you.

Although we often find it more natural to purposefully influence those we have had more experience than, are older than, or advise/manage, leadership can come from any and all people (not to say that all leadership is ethical leadership).

Consciously practicing leadership will inevitably form it into your character. You know those people, that just come off as strong leaders. They often have a sense of who they are and who they are influencing, their goals, and how to get there.

I will admit, that first day as a LOD on my backpacking trip, I was practicing awful leadership. Being so caught up on getting from point A to point B, I wasn’t considering the needs of those I was supposed to be leading. Impacting others unintentionally was a common theme, rather than the more successful thought of purposeful influence.

Start making leadership a part of your character. Begin by asking yourself a few questions:

  1. What does leadership mean to me?
  2. How can I show leadership in my current roles?
  3. Who are those that I already purposefully influence?
  4. Who do I currently influence without thoughtful purpose? How can I change that?

Consider your answers as you start new roles, complete old ones, and continue in the tasks at hand. Whether it’s guiding a group through the forest, or managing a sales team, leadership does not require a specific title. Instead, leadership is the practice of purposeful influence as an individual or group understands who they are, what their goals are, and how they will reach them.

Note: Many of the ideas I have learned and presented on the topic of leadership have been presented to me by Messiah College’s Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Programs.

Meg Dobinson | Harrisburg

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