Reclaiming “Leadership”

A photo of a signpost to indicate a choice must be made whether to embrace leadership or not

Leadership can be a loaded word.

Perhaps you’re part of a flat organization trying to democratize your team.  Maybe you have worked with leadership that has felt limited to title only, or are overwhelmed by the over-usage of “leadership” as a buzzword.  Maybe you are hesitant to call yourself a leader. We get it. 

There’s often confusion about the difference between management and leadership. Both are important to a healthy organization, but they are not the same thing. Management is making sure tasks get done, while leadership is about how and why tasks get done.

We want to invite you to reclaim the term leadership. Contrary to what you’ve certainly experienced at some point in your life, leadership is not about hierarchy, power, authority, or brute force. It’s not about babysitting or sitting in the director’s chair. It’s not the act of merely leading followers, and it’s not just about your job title. And people aren’t “born leaders.”

Here at Spotlight Trust, we define leadership in this way:

Leadership is a posture of making change happen and empowering others to make change happen too.

Anyone can be a leader

The fact that leadership is a posture that can be learned, and is not necessarily based solely on your title means that anyone and everyone can be a leader if they so choose.

One more time for those in the back: everyone can be a leader if they so choose.

This posture is how you choose to show up on a daily basis, and it’s title-agnostic. Whether you’re on the front lines dealing directly with customers or if you’re in the C-suite crafting a vision, becoming a leader is a choice that is yours to make. 

It’s potentially a frightening choice, as when you accept that you have the power to lead no matter your formal title, you have to be accountable and take responsibility for your actions. There’s no more dialing it in or letting it be someone else’s problem. There’s no place to hide or bury your head in the sand.

Perhaps you’re ready to step up and reclaim your status as a leader. But what does effective leadership look like? How do you do it?

Practicing leadership

Leadership is a practice. It’s learning and applying a collection of skills and competencies. At Spotlight Trust, to differentiate effective, human centered leadership from the outdated, ineffective command and control model, we talk about Trust-Centered Leadership.

This looks like doing the emotional labor to create the psychological safety needed for teams to collaborate, learn together, and innovate. Trust-Centered Leadership is providing clarity and making connections. It’s having hard, candid, and caring conversations and taking ownership over projects and initiatives.  It’s making your team’s problems your problems, and enrolling others in your vision of the future rather than bullying people into submission.  

You’re moving up, contributing, and holding yourself and others accountable to not only a work ethic, but also the purpose and values of the organization.  It’s now your ass on the line, and it’s enrolling others so it’s their ass as well.  As Spider-Man’s uncle famously said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Trust-Centered Leadership looks like people willing to take responsibility for the good AND the bad, all in a sense of working in community towards a shared goal.

Leadership in general isn’t easy work, but it’s rewarding work, and it’s something that you need to choose again and again and again. Trust-Centered Leadership is the way forward, and given the current failing in the stewardship of most organizations, we’re going to need you to assume the mantle.

We need trusted leaders more than ever to step up and pave a way to a better future. 

Do you want to choose to be one of them?

Will you choose to be one of them?

PS – If you’re looking to level up your Trust-Centered Leadership skills, we’ve got a bunch of free workshops for you right here!

1 comment

  1. Yes, and: Use These Two Words to Build Trust | The Brightspot Trust | Trust-Centered Leadership

    […] Trust-Centered leaders help new people feel welcome, whether the new person is a new hire, a manager who has recently been promoted and is now in meetings with more senior colleagues, a new member to a community, or a prospect. When you’re interacting with someone new, yes, and can be a simple way to demonstrate care and encourage connection. When the new person shares something, support their contribution with a yes, and. This is a subtle, yet powerful way to signal to them that their contribution is noticed, appreciated, and valued. This is a practical way to include them that can help build their confidence in the new context and likely encourage them to keep showing up and contributing. […]

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