The Triton


Having a title does not make you a leader


Congratulations. You have just been promoted to bosun, chief stew, captain or some other supervisory position. Now what?



Before you focus exclusively on what you have to do in your new role, let’s consider your position in terms of leadership.



Anyone can be appointed to a position. Position and title bring with it responsibility and a degree of power, but leadership is earned, not given. Being granted a position is only a starting place for leadership.



Leadership comes in many forms, with the reliance on position and title being the weakest form. A supervisor who does not develop skills as a leader relies on his/her position to lead. Positional leaders expect obedience from followers simply because of a title.



Do any of the following behaviors or situations seem familiar?

• Positional leaders are controlling; they focus on control instead of contribution.

• Turnover is high for positional leaders.

• Leaders who rely on position often devalue people. They see people as cogs in a machine.

• Positional leaders feed on politics.

• Positional leaders do things to make themselves look and feel important.

• Positional leaders receive people’s lowest amount of effort, not their highest.

Positional leaders say things like:

• “I’m over you”, or “I am higher than you”, implying superiority.

• “Fake it till you make it.”

• “You’re here to help me.”

• “I determine your future.”

• “Do this or else.”



Followers decide to follow based on how a leader behaves and how they treat others. If someone displays the behaviors listed above, a leader is focused on themselves rather than on the people they lead. Positional leadership is a self-centered form of leadership.



A key point to consider with position is that it requires a leader to rely on coercion, power and control. Unfortunately for the positional leader, no one responds well to being bossed around and bullied.

So what can be done to move away from positional leadership and become an authentic leader?

Leadership is about relationships. Leaders who do not build a relationship with their followers will always be mediocre at leading. By developing relationships, a leader will have influence with followers, which is the core of being a leader. A leader who relies on their position will never develop influence with followers, limiting their success.



In a leadership context, relationship is not about becoming someone’s best friend. Instead, a leader-follower relationship is about the development of credibility on the part of the leader, building trust with followers, as well as demonstrating respect for themselves and those around them. In life, a relationship in which one person is domineering, controlling and self-centered does not last long. The same thing applies in the work environment.



To move into authentic leadership requires a leader to be themselves at all times. This includes admitting mistakes and accepting help. Authentic leadership requires trust and leaders must be the first to extend trust in order to gain it from followers. Further, attention and focus must shift away from the leader onto followers. The leader will then be seen as selfless instead of selfish.



Authentic leadership includes:

• Be who you are in every circumstance.

• Admit mistakes.

• Admit you do not know everything.

• Accept responsibility for your actions and the actions of those you are responsible for.

• Extend trust to others in order to build trust.

• Seek input and ideas from others, and act on what you receive.

Being authentic is not easy. As James Autry points out in “The Servant Leader”, “… much of our conditioning is against being authentic. In the process of socializing us, our parents taught us to not say some of what we were feeling or thinking. This carries over to the workplace …” where we have learned how to be political and work within the culture of the organization.

When followers trust their leader and understand the leader is focused on them, there is a shift in their attitude and behavior. Followers are more willing to give of themselves and make deeper contributions, resulting in better overall results for the organization, the leader and the followers themselves.

Paul Ferdais is founder and owner of The Marine Leadership Group based in Ft. Lauderdale and Vancouver ( He has a master’s degree in leadership and spent seven years working as a deckhand, mate and first officer on yachts. He is hosting a free “Intro to Leadership” seminar at 7:30 p.m. on April 9 at Pier 66. Register on his site by clicking “free events”. Comments on this column are welcome at

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