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Leadership Principle #1: Leadership is an activity, not a position

by | Jan 3, 2023 | KLC Framework

Most think leadership is a position. (It’s not.) Most think leading is meant for the few. (Wrong again.)

When people say, “Let’s ask leadership about this,” they usually mean let’s ask the people in charge. When they say, “The company has a new leader,” they mean there is a new CEO.

Leadership position and leadership team are outdated terms from a model that no longer works. The “leadership as a position” model is collapsing. The world is moving too fast. The pace of change is too unforgiving. Organizations that expect people at the top to do all the leading won’t thrive. At best they’ll survive.

The pace of change makes it too hard for the relatively few people who head up teams, committees, companies, agencies, cities, and countries to shoulder all the leadership necessary for success. They lack sufficient perspective and knowledge to solve multifaceted problems in an increasingly diverse society.

And the traditional “leadership as authority” model lets the rest of us off the hook. We tell ourselves that since we aren’t in charge, we aren’t responsible for what’s wrong. We say it’s the CEO’s fault or the governor’s fault or the pastor’s fault. We leave the creativity, risk, and responsibility for change to someone else, someone higher on the org chart.

Leadership is an activity. It’s a verb. A thing anyone can do, anytime, anywhere. Leadership is mobilizing others to make progress on complex and entrenched challenges. It is not a role.

Authority is a position. People hold it. And always, if we are talking about the really hairy adaptive challenges, no one person is powerful enough to exercise all the leadership all by themselves.

Organizations, companies, and communities are more successful when everyone leads.


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