Don’t just rely on your management position: Inspire others by bringing your personality and core values to your leadership role.
Have you ever had a boss with lots of formal authority but no actual talent for leadership? If so, you’ve experienced a positional leader: someone at level one of the leadership ladder, who thinks position alone gives them the power to command.
Unfortunately, positional leaders waste energy and fail to get the best out of their subordinates. After all, when formal position is the only thing legitimizing your leadership, you have to spend all your time defending your authority.
In fact, we often see positional leaders behaving like medieval rulers, obsessed with accumulating huge armies and castles to buttress their power. In real-world terms, imagine a manager obsessed with attaining the largest possible staff and the biggest budget all in order to make themselves look important.
Exacerbating the poor leadership, positional leaders have trouble giving their employees direction. They may order people around, but the subordinates will do only what is specifically expected, and very little more.
The lesson here is that instead of seeing a leadership position as your only goal, you should see it as a starting point. It’s a chance to develop your own way of leadership and create lasting influence.
Here’s another way to think about it: Although you may have a defined position within the company, you still have to fill it with life by choosing core values and deciding to implement specific working practices. Ultimately, you can develop any kind of leadership style, as long as it’s effective and true to who you are.
The former CEO of Southwest Airlines learned this lesson while observing the behavior of two court litigators. One was very diplomatic and calm; the other was aggressive and emotional. But despite the difference in style, both were outstandingly successful. He realized that you have to bring your own personality to the position.