Last week I did an interview on leadership, community and social media with Adrian Swinscoe, which I thoroughly enjoyed and you can listen to here.

At the end of the blog post in which the interview was posted, Wendy commented and talked about a situation where others might regard her as a leader, but she doesn’t think she is one herself – and asked if this is a problem. I think it is, and so I responded. Here’s what I responded with, and it’s important to post here because I believe it is detrimental to not see yourself as the leader that you are:

Leadership expert John Maxwell maintains that there are 5 levels of leadership – the lowest being “position” which is being a leader because of your position, but nothing more. Then each level on top is about being a more influential and regarded leader beyond the position that you may or may not have. (link to the framework: http://hubpages.com/hub/John-Maxwell-defines-5-levels-of-leadership)

Very often, poor leaders are those who only ever exist on the “position” level. People follow them because they have to. I’m sure we all have known someone in this position, or even been this person at some point in our life! The next level is “permission” and this is where people follow you because they have given you permission as a leader to do so – regardless of whether you have a position or not. You don’t have to have a position for people to give you permission to lead them.

Often at this second level, people regard us as leaders more than we do ourselves. This is because when we are aspring and unsure of our leadership, we are more aware of our weaknesses than our strengths, so when we display leadership we don’t see it because we are more caught up with the mistakes we made or what we could’ve done differently.

This is a natural stage of leadership and is to be expected – but leaders must grow through it. If they dont, and continue to not see themselves as leaders whilst others do, these others will loose respect for them and the leader’s stature will be diminished in their eyes. Imagine if you respected me as a leader, but I kept on telling you I wasn’t a leader. At first you’d try to encourage me, but after months of this, you’d begin to see me as less of the leader that you once thought.

Aspring leaders must not, on the other hand, over step the mark and act as more of a leader than they actually are! This arrogance is the other side of the ditch.

Your Leading Thoughts

  • Do you or have you had to fight this problem in your life? (I have!) If so, how did you overcome?
  • Digitally, how does this effect people who don’t realise the influence that they actually have online?

Archived Comments

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    I see ‘leader’ in much the same way as I see ‘expert:’ a brand.

    Talk is cheap. Brands are worthless in the absence of action. Leaders are defined by their actions. Where am I going with this? I don’t right know, but I do hope we can stray from the echo chamber of yet another conversation about influence.

    Umair Haque (@umairh) shared some superb thoughts on boss-leader-builder last weekend. Based on these simple tweets, I’m thinking we need to evolve beyond leadership (and the shallow focus on influence).

    @umairh: “6. The boss says, “Get there on time;” the leader gets there ahead of time. The Builder makes sure “getting there” matters.”

    @umairh: “5. The boss assigns the task, the leader sets the pace. The Builder sees the outcome.”

    And, my favorite:

    @umairh: “The 21st c doesn’t need more leaders–nor more leadership. Only Builders can kickstart the chain reaction of a more authentic prosperity.”

  • / Scott Gould


    I like this, thank you – I can guarantee that you I won’t be providing another echo chamber conversation on influence. I don’t beat my chest a lot, but something I know about is influence.



  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    Right. You know something about influence. I know something about influence. Everyone knows something about influence. But WHY is influence the hot topic of the day?

    I landed here because something Mr. Blanchard said about you combined with my goals/ideals – let’s call it ‘activation.’ That’s influence.

    I keep coming back because you consistently provide a forum for thought-provoking discussion related to my goals/ideals – let’s call that ‘cultivation.’ That’s influence.

    My point is, WHY is influence a hot topic, while product/service improvement in pursuit of thick, long term value to people, places, and planet is not? Simple: Our economies are powered by mindless consumption of disposable goods because business feels it more important to INFLUENCE consumption than to bring wholesome, VALUABLE products to market.

    Influence is moot. It’s a two-sided equation and the gamification of a digital caste system devised to facilitate the consumption of goods. Let’s shake things up, Scott. Let’s focus not on how to identify influential people to help us peddle goods, but instead, on helping people bring what Haque calls “betters” to market.