Leadership is an action, not a position

Leadership is an action, not a position

Everyone wants to be a leader in some way or another. Inherent human nature prompts individuals to pursue recognition, followership, and importance in society. A position of power and influence is certainly appealing. However, this desire to be a leader is not as easy to achieve as it seems. Not every boss is a leader, nor does every manager effectively lead their team. A commander might direct his unit, and a captain his team, but not all of them demonstrate true leadership without showcasing the qualities of leadership. This might sound paradoxical, but being at the top of an organization does not necessarily mean being a leader. Leadership is not a position but an action.

A leader is not simply someone who occupies a position of influence or authority. Rather, a leader is someone who leads—who shows the way, guides, encourages, and collaborates. As a leader, one may not necessarily give orders but might share the burden or take responsibility for the work of others. If a manager instructs his team to deliver a difficult target, but the team seeks guidance and inspiration from a colleague who relieves pressure and works through difficult issues, the real leader is that co-worker, not the manager. If a boss expects his subordinates to share the responsibility for failure but takes credit alone for any success, he is certainly not a leader.

To become a leader, one must actively lead their group, organization, or team. In doing so, the leader may sometimes walk behind the team rather than ahead of them. They may not sit in an ivory tower but participate with the workers in their place of work, regardless of how hot or dusty it may be. Without being part of the team, one cannot lead. “Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge,” writes Simon Sinek. Therefore, sending instructions through email or WhatsApp messages without seeking the views of those who will implement them is certainly a failure of leadership. Instructing is different from leading.

The essential principle of successful leadership is that followers should be able to relate to the leader. They should see the leader as one of them, not a distant figure. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way,” aptly remarks John C. Maxwell. Even the military commanders who have been part of campaigns have a better chance of being victorious, such as Alexander or Shivaji. Leaders like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela could rally millions against the mighty British Empire because of their equal participation and practice before preaching. In business organizations, government offices, social movements, or political movements, it is essential for leadership to follow the principle of action, not position, to achieve optimal success.