Title does not make a leader

Jun 15, 2015 by Paul Ferdais

Sometimes leaders rely on their title or position to get people to do what needs to be done. But a title alone does not create a leader. How, then, do you develop influence to create a team?

The answer is that it hinges on the quality of the relationships a leader has with his or her co-workers. Relationships are the foundation of genuine leadership. Without them, it’s impossible to influence others.

Leaders who develop relationships demonstrate they care about their co-workers. In a relationship, people learn to trust one another, learn to listen to one another, and will connect as people over time.

The stronger the relationship, the stronger the trust and the deeper influence a leader will have.

There was a time when people trusted first and expected it from others. In today’s working world leaders must first earn trust.

Positional leaders – those who lead from their title – are commonly heard saying something like, “Do this because I told you to.” Unfortunately for those leaders, they only get the bare minimum of effort from their co-workers. This happens because relying on a title is the weakest form of leadership and basically is the same as coercion. There is often an implied threat of “Do this or else…”

Coercion in this circumstance only works because the leader happens to have authority and leverage over someone else. This leverage usually comes in the form of holding the power to fire someone. In other words, “do as I say, or I will fire you.”

On the other hand, while authentic leaders may have a title and authority, they rarely need to rely on it. Instead, they use influence to encourage co-workers to accomplish their tasks.

The following six steps will help onboard managers develop influence and become superior leaders.

  1. Develop relationships.

Because leadership rests on relationships, it’s crucial that those who want to become effective leaders take the time and make the effort to develop relationships with their people. Develop relationships connect a leader to his/her team mates and demonstrates that you value them.

The best way to start is to behave with courtesy. Simply saying “please” and “thank you,” “good morning” and “good night” demonstrates that you do not take anyone for granted or, more importantly, that your title doesn’t put you above simple decency. Common courtesies build influence with people.

  1. Demonstrate integrity.

Honesty, trust and dignity combine to create integrity. If integrity is weak, leadership will be limited due to diminished trust, a crucial component to relationships.

Ethical principles, the foundation of integrity, are not flexible. In any big or small issues that may come up, behave the same way. Behaving the same way in all situations develops and maintains integrity.

  1. Treat people with respect.

When you respect someone, you demonstrate a sense of the worth you hold for that person.  You must also earn people’s respect; you cannot simply expect it. Respect helps motivate others because they feel cared for and considered. Be respectful of everyone around you and watch your influence grow.

  1. Listen to others.

Listening is the one skill everyone uses every day. How well you listen is entirely up to you. In grade school we’re taught how to do math, read, and spell. Unfortunately, we aren’t specifically taught how to listen to those around us. Make the effort to improve your skill of listening.

Listening does two things at once: it shows respect for others and helps build relationships. Listening demonstrates that we are not focused on ourselves but instead on the people around us. Influence grows when we listen to what other people have to say.

  1. Build up the people around you.

Great leaders think of their team before thinking about themselves. Add value to others so they can perform at a higher level and achieve your expectations. As a leader, it’s essential to create other leaders who can take over moving forward. Grow your people so they can succeed and achieve their highest potential.

When leaders develop their people, influence with them builds because the leader demonstrates that they care about their success.

  1. Share common experiences.

Sharing common experiences builds bridges with team mates. When a leader leads from the front and participates in what the rest of the team is doing, these shared experiences build strong connections. When all members of the team experience things together, they develop bonds that strengthen relationships. For leaders, that means deepening influence.

Use these steps to help develop influence to become a more successful leader, regardless of your title.

Paul Ferdais is founder and CEO of The Marine Leadership Group (www.marineleadershipgroup.com) delivering leadership training workshops and coaching. He holds a master’s degree in leadership and spent years working his way up from deckhand, to first officer on yachts. Comments are welcome at editorial@the-triton.com.