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Are you a Leader by Position or Disposition?


Unlocking Leadership Excellence: Lessons from My Coaching Journey (2), by Kim Shiel

So here is the burning question - Are you a leader by position or are you a leader by disposition?

Have you ever asked yourself why people follow you? If you haven't asked yourself perhaps you should ask them but be very careful about asking this question because you may not like the answers!

In many of the leadership workshops I have run I've asked this question to my delegates:

“Why do you follow your boss?” and sadly, a lot of the responses go like this:

“Because I have to” / “because he / she is the boss” / “because if I don’t, I may lose my job.”

However, I do get a few nice surprises with answers such as:

“Because he/she knows what he's doing” / because he/ she is patient with me and wants me to do well / my leader is very supportive and trusts in me /they give me great recognition when I do well / they take time to coach me and to get to know me / my boss just gets me.”

Any leaders that were in the room used to actually say... Nothing! and I guess this was because it got them all thinking.

Perhaps some of the people didn't understand the difference and that doesn't surprise me because a lot of people don't understand the difference so here goes…

The term leader of position and leader of disposition obviously refers to different types of leadership styles or different approaches and while these exact terms are not widely recognized there is an interpretation based on certain concepts.

1. A Leader of Position refers to someone who holds a leadership role due to the formal title or their position within the organisation, whereby the authority is based on organizational hierarchy. As such people are expected to follow their orders and directions because of their authority within the organization, not necessarily because they have an exceptional leadership value proposition, in other words qualities or special leadership skills.

2. A Leader of Disposition refers to that leader who exhibits leadership qualities based on their own personal leadership value proposition. This could be the way they interact with other people, their emotional intelligence levels, or their behavior, but these leaders do have the respect and support of their peers, teams, and colleagues, through inspiring and motivating others. They practice empathy, lead by example have great communication skills and have a positive influence on their team.

Formal rank or title will not gain you influence, respect or a positive team experience, however, highly effective leaders can combine both aspects or various styles of leadership to demonstrate holistic leadership styles. This combination is and comes about because of continual leadership development, personal development, and practicing leadership kaizen.

This is one of the many in workshop conversations that had a great impact, rendered my room quiet, and got all the delegates having a little rethink about how they behave as leaders. During my stories, I will touch on various leadership styles, but suffice to say, asking oneself as the leader, why you are actually sitting in that leadership chair is always great food for thought.

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